World Cup 2018 | Giroud joins Zidane as France beat Ireland
PARIS (AP): Olivier Giroud moved level with Zinedine Zidane for international goals as France began its World Cup preparations with a comfortable 2-0 friendly win against Ireland yesterday. Giroud poked the ball home in the 40th minute after his initial header from a corner was cleared off the line. It took the Chelsea striker to 31 international goals on his 72nd appearance – fourth with Zidane on France’s all-time list. “I’m happy on a personal level, I didn’t get many chances tonight,” Giroud said. “We tried to impose our way of playing. We knew they would sit deep and defend in numbers.” Lyon forward Nabil Fekir made it 2-0 moments after Giroud’s goal, following a blunder from Ireland goalkeeper Colin Doyle. Receiving the ball inside the penalty area on the left, Fekir showed neat footwork to switch the ball on to his right foot and hit a curling shot, which Doyle only managed to push over his own head. France coach Didier Deschamps handed a first start to central midfielder Steven N’Zonzi and selected Fekir on the right of a three-man attack with Giroud at centre forward and Kylian Mbappe on the left. Fit-again left back Benjamin Mendy, meanwhile, showed no lingering effect from the serious knee injury, which sidelined him for most of Manchester City’s victorious Premier League campaign. From his cross, Giroud headed wide in the 31st as France dominated the first half, also hitting the post through midfielder Corentin Tolisso’s curling strike from 20 metres. Doyle denied Giroud after the break, while Mbappe missed several chances. “I was very pleased with our team spirit,” Deschamps said. France hosts Italy and the United States before flying out to Russia, where it opens its World Cup campaign against Australia on June 16. Les Bleus take on Peru five days later and then Denmark on June 26.