DOHA: Olivier Giroud joined Thierry Henry as France’s all-time top scorer with a brace as holders France recovered to beat Australia 4-1 and kick off their World Cup defense on a winning start on Tuesday.
Australia took a shock lead at the Al Janoub Stadium with the game just nine minutes away when Craig Goodwin scored.
France, whose preparation for the tournament has been marred by injuries, saw left-back Lucas Hernandez injured in the move that led to that goal.
However, they recovered to equalize through Adrien Rabiot before Giroud put them ahead with an easy 32nd-minute finish for his 50th international goal.
Kylian Mbappe put his name on the scoresheet in the second half and Giroud sealed victory to equal Henry’s record 51 goals for France.
The win puts them top of Group D after rivals Denmark and Tunisia drew 0-0 in Doha earlier.
At 36, veteran AC Milan striker Giroud, who has 115 caps, is the oldest player to score for France at a World Cup.
Still, he definitely wouldn’t have played here if Karim Benzema had been fit.
Instead, the Ballon d’Or winner’s withdrawal with a thigh injury on the eve of the tournament played into the hands of Giroud, who was a key player under coach Didier Deschamps during the triumphant campaign of the 2018 World Cup in France but did not score. in Russia.
It’s not just Benzema missing for the Blues, with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – their starting midfield duo four years ago – also absent from the tournament.
Centre-back Raphael Varane hasn’t taken the risk of not playing since suffering a leg injury while playing for Manchester United a month ago.
This meant Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté – with nine caps between them – played together in central defense while Rabiot joined Aurélien Tchouameni in midfield.
Hernandez injury blow
Australia surprised the world champions by scoring an opener.
Mathew Leckie controlled the ball on the right and evaded Lucas Hernandez before firing a low ball across the face of goal for Goodwin to end up in the roof of the net.
Hernandez hurt his right knee trying to stop Leckie, although there didn’t appear to be any contact between the players.
The Bayern Munich defender has been helped, with the arrival of his brother Theo.
The younger Hernandez didn’t have the best introduction, giving the ball away and allowing Mitch Duke to hit a ranged shot that flew just wide.
Still, he played a part in the 27th-minute equalizer – Antoine Griezmann’s right corner was cleared but the ball came to Hernandez on the left and his cross was headed in by Rabiot.
Five minutes later, Rabiot was involved again as France took the lead, chasing Nathaniel Atkinson out of possession down the French left and playing a one-two with Mbappe before teeing off Giroud.
A Jackson Irvine header that hit the post in first-half stoppage time served as a reminder that Australia could still threaten, but France ran away with the game after the break.
Griezmann had a clear shot down the line just before Mbappe made it 3-1 midway through the second half as he headed in a post from Ousmane Dembele’s cross.