Regardless of how they fare in their final game of 2011, at Évian Thonon Gaillard FC on Wednesday, Montpellier Hérault SC can reflect on a wonderful first half of the season. One man who has particular reason to hold his head high is forward Olivier Giroud, who leads the Ligue 1 scoring charts with 12 goals – as many as he managed in the whole of last season.
Not out of the top four all term, and often at the Ligue 1 summit, Montpellier owe a large debt to Giroud, who has plundered just under a third of his side's goals. Although the Chambéry native has found the net only once in December, his stock has soared this campaign, acquiring a reputation as a lethal finisher; all but one of his league strikes have come from inside the penalty area.
Giroud's eye-catching form certainly made an impression with France coach, and former Montpellier defender, Laurent Blanc, who handed the forward his first cap in November's 1-0 friendly win against the United States. "It was a great honour to wear the shirt," said Giroud. The forward is now hoping success at club level will force Blanc's hand and ensure a place for the former sports science student at UEFA EURO 2012. "I'll just try and focus on the league," he said. "There might be great times ahead for my team-mates and I."
Giroud's club coach is convinced a place at next summer's finals is a possibility after watching his spearhead come on in leaps and bounds this campaign. "Olivier has reached the next level this season," explained René Girard. "He has improved as a target man and can now hold the ball up better for the benefit of the team. He should be able to score more with his head, though, and he shouldn't worry about messing his hair."
Girard's criticism of his star-striker's heading ability may be tongue in cheek after the forward was voted as France's sexiest player by Têtu magazine. "I like to take care of myself," admitted the striker, who also sports a number of tattoos. "I've got a psalm from the Bible on my right arm and, on the left, a series of symbols that depict family, bravery, love and strength."
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