On a second full day of competitive action that began with Argentina’s head-bending 2-1 loss at the hands of Saudi Arabia, Didier Deschamps’ Les Bleus were almost reading from the same hymn sheet when the Socceroos opened the scoring just nine minutes after kick-off when Craig Goodman’s half-volley finish beat Hugo Lloris high at the far post after Mathew Leckie got free in the area to turn supplier.
For France, it almost went bad to worse in rapid order after startling left-back Lucas Hernández had to be removed after picking up an apparent knee injury in the run-up to Australia’s goal, stripping France of their sixth key asset with barely a ball kicked in anger this winter.
But France came to life soon after and finally found the equalizer through Adrien Rabiot and, little did many know, but the rout was on and a quiet fantastic performance from Antoine Griezmann would go under the radar but nevertheless was vital in France’s big win.
Five minutes later it would be Olivier Giroud who would give the French a lead they would not surrender when he bagged his 50th goal in service for his country, pulling him within just one goal of Thierry Henry’s record of 51 goals for the national team.
At this stage, Les Bleus enjoyed a period of dominance they would not surrender and it would be star man Kylian Mbappé to make it 3-1 in the 68th minute after he rose highest in the box after Ousmane Dembélé supplied a brilliant curled cross for the PSG forward to head home for his 29th goal on his record-breaking 60th appearance.
Giroud was not to be outdone on the night, however, and his second on the night and France’s fourth finally saw him draw level with Henry’s goal record while teammates surrounded him to congratulate the clearly delighted AC Milan striker, who was hardly expected to start before Karim Benzema’s untimely injury in the run-up to the tournament.
In scoring a brace on the night, Giroud also became the second-oldest player to score a brace at the World Cup after Cameroonian legend Rodger Milla
It was a statement result for France during the early days of a winter tournament that has seen other sides that came with a measure of expectation fall well short of their ability but have also displayed the immense depth inside the France player pool and how talented a group of players that Deschamps has at his disposal in Qatar.
France Player Ratings
GK: Hugo Lloris (6) - Little to do for the Tottenham shot-stopper and cannot be held to account for Goodwin’s match-opening strike in the early stages.
RB: Benjamin Pavard (6.5) - No blockbuster strike from Pavard on the night akin to his long-range effort against Argentina in 2018. Pavard was decent enough.
CB: Ibrahima Konaté (7) - Many expected William Saliba or Raphaël Varane to be given the nod in the center of defense - and they may still - but Konaté was solid tonight in contrast to some of his performances for Liverpool.
CB: Dayot Upamecano (7) - The Bayern Munich defender took what many consider to be his rightful place in the center of defense after his progression in Germany over the last few years, with Upamecano putting in a credible outing.
LB: Lucas Hernández (N/A) - Removed after less than ten minutes of action due to injury
CM: Aurélien Tchouaméni (7.5) - A potential blessing in disguise for France after Pogba and Kanté were unavailable, with Tchouaméni a possible early choice for one of the young players of the tournament. Very good tonight.
CM: Adrien Rabiot (8) - Some assumed Eduardo Camavinga would be given the call, Rabiot produced a very good performance and became the first Frenchman to score and assist on his World Cup debut since Christophe Dugarry in 1998.
CAM: Antoine Griezmann (8) - Failed to get on the scoresheet tonight in either capacity but the Atlético Madrid man was nevertheless integral to how France went about their business on the pitch. Direct contributions are sure to come.
RW: Ousmane Dembélé (8) - The Barcelona winger translated his form at club level to his performance tonight as his electric ability on the ball and creativity from wide stood out and included an assist for Mbappé's goal.
LW: Kylian Mbappé (8.5) - A goal and an assist for the record-breaking French star as he turned up on both sides of the scoresheet as France laid down their own statement win to kick-off group play.
CF: Olivier Giroud (8.5) - A brace on the night to equal Thierry Henry’s goalscoring record for France is the perfect way for his tournament to begin after he was not expected to be selected ahead of the now-injured Karim Benzema.
Sub: Theo Hernández (8)
Sub: Youssouf Fofana (6)
Sub: Kingsley Coman (6.5)
Sub: Jules Koundé (N/A)
Sub: Marcus Thuram (N/A)
Australia Player Ratings
GK: Matt Ryan (5)
RB: Nathaniel Atkinson (5)
CB: Harry Souttar (6)
CB: Kye Rowles (6)
LB: Aziz Behich (6.5)
DM: Aaron Mooy (6.5)
CM: Riley McGree (6)
CM: Jackson Irvine (6)
RW: Craig Goodwin (7)
LW: Mathew Leckie (7)
CF: Mitchell Duke (6)
Sub: Jason Cummings (6)
Sub: Darang Kuol (6)
Sub: Awer Mabil (6)
Sub: Milos Degenek (N/A)
Sub: Keanu Baccus (N/A)