On Tuesday, Olivier Giroud equaled Thierry Henry’s France goalscoring record as Les Bleus battled back to defeat Australia 4-1 in their World Cup defense.
After suffering injuries to Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, and others in the build-up to the tournament, France was dealt another blow when Craig Goodwin fired Australia into an early lead.
However, the holders responded well, with the impressive Adrien Rabiot scoring and assisting – the latter for Giroud – during a first-half comeback.
Kylian Mbappe then secured the points with a fine glancing header before teeing up Giroud to nod home his historic 51st goal as France regained control of Group D.
After nine minutes, Goodwin side-footed Mathew Leckie’s cross into the roof of the net in a dream start for Australia, but a quickfire France double turned the game around.
Rabiot was involved in both goals, nodding home Theo Hernandez’s deep cross after 27 minutes before allowing Giroud to tap in.
The first half ended with clear chances at both ends, with Mbappe firing over from close range and Jackson Irvine heading against the post.
Giroud came close to a spectacular second with an acrobatic effort wide shortly after the break, while Antoine Griezmann had a shot cleared off the goalline as France pressed.
After 68 minutes, Mbappe diverted Ousmane Dembele’s cross in off the post to give France a well-deserved third goal.
Just three minutes later, Mbappe sent in a fine cross for France’s fourth, but the moment belonged to Giroud, who powered a header past Mathew Ryan to earn a place in Les Bleus history.
What does it imply? Champions make a strong first impression
France went into Tuesday’s match hoping to break the recent trend of slow starts by World Cup holders – the reigning champions had only won three of the previous 12 tournaments (D4 L5).
Didier Deschamps may have feared the worst given their chaotic preparations and Australia’s early opener, but Les Bleus were ultimately good value for their win, which saw them take control of Group D following Denmark’s draw with Tunisia.
Giroud is comparable to Henry.
If Real Madrid’s Ballon d’Or-winning forward Benzema had been fit to face the Socceroos, Giroud would have been the player who would have been left out of Deschamps’ squad.
However, Giroud, who played a key role in France’s 2018 triumph in Russia, scored a brace to equal Henry’s tally of 51 goals for his country, despite having played eight fewer games than the Arsenal legend.
Rabiot takes the spotlight.
Injuries to Pogba and his 2018 World Cup-winning midfield partner N’Golo Kante allowed Rabiot to take on a central role in Qatar, and he did not disappoint in France’s Group D opener.
Rabiot took the game by the scruff of the neck before the break, becoming the first French player since Christophe Dugarry against South Africa in 1998 to score and assist on his World Cup debut.
Facts about Opta:
- France has won five consecutive World Cup games, matching their joint-longest winning streak at the tournament. They also won five in a row from 1986 to 1998.
- Australia has lost 11 of their 17 World Cup games (65%), the joint-highest ratio of any nation with 10 or more matches in the competition (Saudi Arabia is also 65%).
- France became the first reigning champion to win their first World Cup game since Brazil in 2006, and this was the largest ever MD1 win by a reigning champion to begin a World Cup campaign.
- Olivier Giroud scored his 50th and 51st goals for France, tying him with Thierry Henry as the country’s all-time leading goalscorer (51). He was the second-oldest player to score a brace in a World Cup, after Roger Milla, who scored twice for Cameroon while he was 38 years old in 1990.
What comes next?
On Saturday, France will face Denmark in their next Group D match, while Australia will face Tunisia.