When the lights come on at the Stade de France in Paris tomorrow evening, it will signal the start of a very special night in the career of Olivier Giroud.
The 34-year-old was a World Cup winner with his country in Russia two years ago, the pinnacle of international football achievements, and now stands on the brink of joining an even more exclusive club as he becomes only the eighth player to reach 100 caps for France.
In a press conference at the French football headquarters in Clairefontaine, manager Didier Deschamps today confirmed that the Chelsea striker would be involved on Wednesday against Ukraine.
‘Yes, Olivier Giroud will play and he will become part of a small club of centurions,’ said Deschamps, who played 103 times for France and has managed the national team since 2012.
‘He has scored a lot of goals, he’s always been decisive since I’ve been here and he makes sure to stay at an excellent level. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done and I’m happy for him.’
Alongside his manager at the press conference, Giroud was in reflective and reminiscent mood as he considered the prospect of making such a remarkable individual achievement.
‘On a personal level, this match will be special for me, with my 100th selection a great pride,’ he noted.
‘I never set any limits and just went step by step. The number 100 is a good number but I still have good years ahead of me and I intend to continue and progress further. I feel very good physically and in my head.’
Giroud has another milestone in his sights this week as he looks for his 41st goal for Les Bleus, a landmark that will take him joint-second in the all-time charts alongside Michel Platini, and 10 behind Thierry Henry.
‘Platini is absolutely right when he says that the most important thing is to help your team win, with an assist or a goal,’ continued Giroud. ‘When I assist my team-mates, it’s a great pleasure and just as rewarding.
‘My goal is to equal Platini as quickly as possible. It would give me immense pride and be a great privilege to equal this legend of French football.
‘I realise how lucky I am to almost reach 100 appearances, to be able to perhaps equal Platini, to perhaps get closer to Henry in the scoring hierarchy.’
Giroud’s career for club and country has been far from conventional; his first top-flight appearance only came 10 years ago and his France debut a year later at the age of 25. Unlike many of his peers, he did not any earn caps with the national junior teams and was something of a late bloomer, evidence that not all journeys to the top take the same linear path.
‘It’s a different career,’ he admitted. ‘I signed in Ligue 1 at the age of 25 and from the moment I had the chance to be in the French team, it was only a bonus.
‘I think I am a good example for young people who don’t go professional at 17 or 18 years old. Everyone has their own way. Through perseverance, self-sacrifice, believing in your qualities and meeting the right people, it is never impossible to get there.’
There is no doubt Giroud has blazed his own trail and, tomorrow night in Paris, he will become a Gallic great in his own right.