DOHA, Qatar (AP) — France roared back from an early deficit to defeat Australia 4-1 in Group D action at Al-Janoub Stadium on Tuesday.
Craig Goodwin of Australia scored in the ninth minute after French defender Lucas Hernández went down. But Adrien Rabiot, Olivier Giroud, and Kylian Mbappé scored four unanswered goals for France to win the game.
Julien Laurens of ESPN provides reaction and analysis from Qatar.
Rapid Response 1. France stumbles initially but recovers to take the lead.
It was not easy for Les Bleus, as it never is against Australia (recall 2018 in Russia) or in their World Cup openers (remember 2002, 2006, 2010). But a win is a win, and France will take it for the time being.
Considering the recent drama — the injuries, including the most recent one that ruled out Karim Benzema from the tournament three days ago, the tensions, and the uncertainties — as well as the nerves of this first game, Didier Deschamps and his team’s victory on Tuesday could be more valuable than just three points. Les Bleus displayed courage and determination to turn the tide, which will give them a great deal of momentum.
Antoine Griezmann took some time to adjust to his new role as a hybrid No. 8/No. 10, but once he did, the team was much more effective. The movement of the ball became more fluid, the team’s shape became more balanced, and France assumed control.
To win back-to-back World Cups, a feat only accomplished by Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962, France will require more control and solidity. The loss of Hernández, another starter due to injury, will continue to test their depth.
However, the French side will be content for the time being. In the previous five World Cups, only one defending champion had won their opening match: Brazil in 2006. France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014, and Germany in 2018 were unable to accomplish this feat. France cannot be too upset about the goal they conceded in light of this.
- Giroud equals Henry’s record
Olivier Giroud likes to say that his football career is a never-ending fresh start. It describes his career and how he continues to rise despite being expected to fall.
Giroud scored his 50th and 51st international goals for France against Australia in his 115th appearance, tying Thierry Henry’s record for the French men’s national team in eight fewer games. It is an extraordinary accomplishment for an extraordinary destiny.
The AC Milan forward was uncertain about his participation in this endeavor. Deschamps had reservations about Giroud and hesitated to include him in the team. The 36-year-old was then supposed to be Benzema’s backup, but once again, fate worked in his favor.
Giroud’s first goal was a tap-in, similar to the hundreds of tap-ins he has scored throughout his career, but it was likely the most significant tap-in of his career. His second header was similar to the hundreds he has scored in his career, but it is likely the most significant of all.
France won the 2018 World Cup despite Giroud not scoring a single goal. He already has two in this edition, so the pressure is off.
Before the game, he had a gut feeling he would score. He was also among the first to congratulate Mbappé when the PSG forward, who is 13 years younger than him and assisted him on his second goal, also scored in the second half.
Giroud, who is 36 years old, surpassed Zinedine Zidane to become France’s oldest goal scorer in World Cup history. Surpassing Zidane and matching Henry? What an incredible evening Giroud had.
- Debutants who are successful
On the field, all eyes were on Ibrahima Konaté, Dayot Upamecano, Aurélien Tchouaméni, and Adrien Rabiot, as they formed a square.
Two central defenders and two central midfielders made their World Cup debuts for France against Australia, and they entered the tournament with a number of questions. They all had a terrible first fifteen minutes, conceding a goal, losing duels, failing to win second balls, and struggling to find their position on the field.
Then Rabiot scored to tie the game at 1-1, and everything fell into place. They were suddenly dominant and effective. Naturally, they will face tougher tests beginning with Saturday’s match against Denmark, but for a debut, they performed admirably.
It is difficult to follow in the footsteps of Raphael Varane (who is expected to return against the Danes), Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, and N’Golo Kanté, but this quartet has a bright future. However, the World Cup will be an incredible learning experience.
These four athletes have respective ages of 23, 24, 22, and 27. Prior to Tuesday, they had a combined 56 caps and had never played together for France, let alone started together or in a World Cup game. For them, as well as for Giroud, it will be a night to remember.
France player rankings: Lloris 5, Pavard 5, Konaté 6, Upamecano 6, Theo 6, Rabiot 7, Tchouaméni 6, Dembele 4, Griezmann 6, Mbappé 8, Giroud 7.
Ryan 4, Atkinson 2, Souttar 4, Rowles 3, Behich 4, Irvine 5, Mooy 4, McGree 4, Leckie 5, Duke 4, Goodwin 5. Australia: Ryan 4, Atkinson 2, Souttar 4, Rowles 3, Behich 4, Mooy 4, McGree 4, Leckie
Top and bottom performers
BEST: Kylian Mbappé, France
Sometimes he attempted to do too much, but his speed and dribbling along the left wing were exceptional. His goal, a rare header, was a reward for his skill with the ball, and he also assisted Giroud’s second goal with a cross, though he could have scored more. Exceptional once again
Nathaniel Atkinson, Australia, is the worst.
The right-back for Hearts struggled all night against Mbappé. The situation worsened when his brother’s replacement, Theo Hernández, entered the game and injected his own offensive flair.
Highlights and significant events
Australia scored the opening goal of Tuesday’s Group D opener in unexpected fashion.
In a double whammy, French defender Lucas Hernández was injured just as Australia’s Mathew Leckie blew past him and passed the ball to England’s Dominic Goodwin, who then shot the ball.
The injured Lucas Hernández was replaced by his brother Theo Hernández, but it didn’t take long for the defending World Cup champions to tie the game.
Rabiot’s equalizer was assisted by Hernández, who had entered the game as a result of an injury sub.
From that point on, France seized the bench and did not let go. There were some tense moments, including an Australia shot off the post in first-half stoppage time, but the French team scored.
Giroud scored the game-winning goal in the 32nd minute.
What the players and managers said after the match French manager Didier Deschamps on Lucas Hernández: “He must conduct some tests, but it appears to be quite serious. This is the major black spot for tonight.”
Graham Arnold, manager of the Socceroos, told SBS: “In the final analysis, they are a quality team. For a reason, they are world champions. I appreciated the first half. Second half, we ran a bit out of steam, but that’s the caliber of player these [French] players possess. We’ll definitely pick up the boys. They should be pleased with their effort and dedication. Nonetheless, they are world champions for a reason.”
Goodwin on his objective: “Almost indescribable is this sensation. I will never forget scoring in a World Cup match against the champions.”
Giroud on his return: “We were startled, but reacted swiftly afterward. Even if we could have scored more goals, we were efficient and found each other. Turning things around is extremely beneficial to our self-esteem. However, we must learn from these minor errors.”
Key figures (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
The reigning men’s World Cup champions entered Tuesday’s match with a record of 9-4-4 (W-L-D) in their opening World Cup matches. Brazil in 2006 was the last defending champions to win their first match.
This is the second-fastest goal France has ever conceded in their opening game at a men’s World Cup, and the quickest since England’s Bryan Robson scored in the opening minute in 1982.
Giroud surpassed Zinedine Zidane as France’s oldest World Cup scorer with his goal, a distinction previously held by Zidane.
Next up for France is a match against Denmark at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, as Les Bleus continue their progression through Group D. They conclude the group stage on Wednesday, November 30, at 10 a.m. ET against Tunisia.
Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, the Socceroos will continue their run through Group D against Tunisia. The group stage will conclude on Wednesday, November 30 at 10 a.m. ET against Denmark.