Doha, Dec 5 (IANS): France head coach Didier Deschamps paid tribute to Olivier Giroud after the AC Milan striker became Les Bleus' all-time leading scorer during their 3-1 win over Poland in the World Cup round of 16 on Sunday.
Giroud, 36, put the defending champions on course for victory with the opening goal and Kylian Mbappe added two more before Roberto Lewandowski converted a late penalty for Poland.
"Olivier has always been an important player for us," Deschamps told a post-match press conference at Al Thumama stadium, reports Xinhua. "Four years ago [at the 2018 World Cup in Russia] he didn't score but he was important."
Giroud's 44th-minute strike saw him surpass Thierry Henry as France's most prolific scorer, having now netted 52 goals in 116 matches.
"He's had difficult periods and has often been criticized," Deschamps said. "But he's managed to stay mentally strong. To score so many goals at international level is an achievement. Well done to him and his teammates who have made it possible for him to do that."
Deschamps admitted that his team had been put under pressure late in the first half by Poland's high defensive line.
"As favourites we knew that we were going to be under pressure," he said. "Everyone thought we were going to beat them. We started the match well in the first 25 minutes, but then we had a difficult period. We didn't play well, with or without the ball.
"Halftime allowed us to correct a few things. We were lucky to be leading after the first half. Most of the players hadn't played for eight days so they should have been fresh but it didn't seem to be the case."