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From the first goal to the World Cup triumph: Giroud and Mandanda, the challenge of old friends

Olivier scored his first professional goal in 2007, in a Grenoble-Le Havre, against the current Rennes goalkeeper. Over the years the two have formed a good relationship, strengthened by their successes in the national team. Now they find themselves facing each other

Michele Antonelli

Seventeen years later, a few things have changed. On February 26, 2007, on a faded Monday evening in Ligue 2, Olivier Giroud introduced himself to football with his first professional goal. The top-ranking match between Grenoble and Le Havre, fifth and sixth at the end of the championship, was being played at the Stade des Alpes, and that day Steve Mandanda was in goal. The two will meet again as great friends in a Milan-Rennes match in the Europa League after a career, a World Cup won together and a few hundred matches spent in the penalty area. One to score, the other to save.

the first intersection

The premise is that the two were born a year and a few months apart. Giroud on 30 September 1986, Mandanda on 28 March 1985. That day at the end of February recounts the Rossoneri striker’s first goal among the pros: the pitch is in terrible condition, the match is stopped at 1-1 and in the 92nd minute Olivier takes advantage of one of the defenders’ mistakes in the area to turn and pierce Mandanda with a powerful, angled left foot. Then, running under the curve to rejoice together with the fans, with his long hair blown by the wind and the number 22 shirt on his shoulders. Frame of a distant era. Mandanda, already physically structured, was learning to command respect between the posts, but the extension only led him to graze the ball, which then ended up in the net for Grenoble’s last-gasp victory. As evidenced by some grainy videos that come up digging on YouTube.

global friends

Olivier and Steve’s careers started from the bottom and in parallel and the story began in that period, slowly becoming a consolidated friendship in the national team. The Rossoneri number 9 told it in January to The Dauphiné Libéré: “Steve? We wrote to each other, it’s nice to see him again. We’ll play for the Europa League all the way.” As usual. Given that together, with Deschamps’ France, the two achieved the 2018 World Cup in Russia, second place in Qatar and another second place at the home European Championship in 2016, making them, all things considered, two of the protagonists of a golden generation of football from beyond the Alps. “What we have experienced and in particular the 2018 World title makes us brothers in sport.”

a “cool” challenge

Giroud also spoke about his goalkeeper friend in recent days, in an interview with West France: “We shared eleven years with the national team and every now and then we write to each other. I appreciate it very much, we have certain values ​​in common.” Above all, the desire to give the best despite the progress of time: “He too doesn’t give up and has renewed until 2025. I talked about it with Ibrahimovic, who played until he was 41. If you have the desire and the body allow, there are no limits.” At a certain point, the attacker focused on a psychological factor, which could be decisive in the two European matches: mutual knowledge in game situations. “I don’t think knowing him helps me on the pitch. Maybe only on penalties, seeing as I’ve missed some recently.” For the record, the two have played against each other 8 times. With 3 successes for Mandanda and 5 for Giroud: the last double match dates back to the group stage of the 2013-14 Champions League, with a double victory for Arsenal against Marseille (1-2 and 2-0). “I’ve already faced friends like Costil and Lloris and I’ve scored goals. So it won’t be a brake to face Mandanda, but it will be cool“. As happens when two old friends embrace each other again.



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