Olivier Giroud has opened his World Cup account in record-breaking fashion. The AC Milan striker netted a brace as France beat Australia 4-1 in Group D. The goals saw Giroud tie record-holder Thierry Henry on 51 strikes for the national team. There was plenty more to savour, with Kylian Mbappe also impressing.
It was a slow start for the world champions, who were caught cold by Craig Goodwin inside nine minutes. Harry Souttar’s cross field ball to the fleet-footed Mathew Leckie created the opportunity. The Melbourne City man’s silky skills left Lucas Hernadez infirm, while his cross found Goodwin who slotted home. Lucas was replaced by his brother Theo after needing treatment. A nightmare start for France.
Some early sloppiness from substitute Hernandez afforded Mitchell Duke a shot that whistled over the bar. But France were soon in control. Hernandez atoned for his error with a pinpoint cross headed home by Adrien Rabiot. The midfielder had refused to be on the standby list for Russia 2018, but he opened France’s scoring at the 2022 tournament.
Rabiot turned creator within five minutes, as France landed a double-blow. The Juventus man pressed high and Kylian Mbappe kissed the loose ball into his path. He squared for Olivier Giroud to score his 50th goal for France. This is the danger France can boast, turning nothing into something with rapid efficiency.
That sort of efficiency eluded Mbappe soon after. Antoine Griezmann, fresh from shooting just wide, played an elegant ball in from the right channel. It sat up perfectly for Mbappe who somehow shinned it over from close range. Even the very best are human, after all. Jackson Irvine almost made him regret it, hitting the post with a header on the stroke of half time.
The second half saw France take the initiative. Hernandez pulled back for Tchouameni whose shot was blocked. The full back then placed a beautiful cross for Giroud, who attempted a well-executed bicycle kick that sailed wide. It would have been quite the way to equal Thierry Henry’s goalscoring record for the French national team. The creativity of the defender came to the fore once again when he pulled back to Griezmann, whose shot was cleared off the line by Aziz Behich.
Many had pegged this as the World Cup of Mbappe, and he made his first inroads to that title by heading in France’s third. Ousmane Dembele’s cross was pitch-perfect and Mbappe made his nodded finish look easy. The floodgates had well and truly opened at this point, and the identity of the next scorer would make history.
Giroud powered home a header from an Mbappe cross to score his 51st goal for France. It ties him with the aforementioned Henry as joint-record scorer for the national side. These were his first goals at a major finals since World Cup 2014, but every member of the 2018 World Cup-winning squad valued his contributions to that historic triumph. The emotional team-wide celebrations here illustrated that.
In truth there was a lot to celebrate here for France. After a build-up rife with talk of the supposed curse of the holders, their opening fixture was full of positives. A record-matching night for Giroud, a rejuvenated Rabiot and the sheer majesty of Mbappe. World Cups aren’t won during the first round of games. But statements are made, and that’s exactly what France did here.
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