France's Olivier Giroud has part to play -- even if it isn't scoring goals

Every great team has a player who toils for others and doesn't get a lot of credit.

On the French national team, which faces Belgium in the World Cup semifinals on Tuesday, that player happens to be its center forward, Olivier Giroud.

In five games, Giroud hasn't scored a goal -- heck, he doesn't even have a shot on goal -- but his presence is considered a big factor in France's success in Russia, where it is unbeaten with four wins and a tie.

After a poor outing against the USA in the final tune-up, Giroud, 31, did not start the opener against Australia, but when France struggled against the Socceroos, head coach Didier Deschamps brought on Giroud, who was involved in the buildup that led to the winning goal late in the game.

Since then, Giroud has started all four games. His one assist was a big one, setting up Kylian Mbappefor what proved to be the deciding goal in the 4-3 win over Argentina.

The most important role Giroud plays in the French attack is winning balls in the air, drawing defenders to him and taking up space in the middle to allow Mbappe to work on the right wing and Antoine Griezmann to find spots between the frontline and midfield.

“When you are a striker like me, you always play for the teammates,” Giroud said. “Obviously, I prefer to have chances and score but, if I can make space for the others, I always try to choose the best option for the team. That’s the main thing."

Deschamps values Giroud's work as the first line of the French defense, harassing the opponent when it has the ball in its half, and as a third center back to defend set pieces, which have played such an important role in the World Cup.

“He might not have the flamboyant style of other players but the team needs him in each and every match," said Deschamps. "Even if he doesn’t score, he’s useful in attack but also because of his game in the air, and in defense. He does many things for the game to be balanced. It’s the players around him that benefit from his presence because he attracts a lot of attention from defenders.”

Giroud can score -- his 31 career goals are tied with Zinedine Zidane for fourth place on the Bleus' all-time scoring list -- but history shows that France doesn't need its center forward to score if it wants to win its second World Cup title.

"When France were world champions in 1998," Giroud said on Sunday, "I think [Christophe] Dugarry scored one goal and [Stephane] Guivarc’h not at all. If we are world champions without me scoring, I don’t mind. It means, if I’m on the field, the boss thinks I can help the team. I’ve got my part to play.”

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