His 4-1 win on the Socceroos on Tuesday night filled the Al Janoub stadium with gasps at the French art on display. The four French goals achieved beauty, as did the countless French near-goals. France still made Australian keeper Mathew Ryan leap and wobble in so many ways he’d rather not. There was still one of the best players we’ve ever seen, Kylian Mbappé, along with a ridiculous amount of other talent and a 36-year-old Olivier Giroud running around scoring two goals.
It always looked like a band of someone who will come out of this group D with Australia, Denmark and Tunisiacould serve as pure hell in the knockout stage – no champion has repeated since 1962 – and could even take inspiration from the unpleasantness.
He was due to arrive here without two players everyone would covet – the injured Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – and then say goodbye for now to another, Karim Benzema, who retired on Saturday with a torn muscle. Lucas Hernandez left early after a tangle along the way to the Australian goal rocked the place after nine minutes. Superstitious spectators might have thought of 2002, when defending champions France started with a 1-0 loss to Senegal and couldn’t make it out of the group stage, or 2010, when France , defending runners-up, started with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay. , lost to Mexico and South Africa and couldn’t get out of the group.
Oddly enough, these things have nothing to do with 2022.
Because after Australian defender Harry Souttar sent a long ball to Mathew Leckie on the right, and after Leckie got out of control with Hernandez and kept the ball, and after Leckie crossed Craig Goodwin, and after Goodwin crashed under the roof of the goal for a 1-0 lead, France arrived.
“We reacted well,” said perennial French coach Didier Deschamps.
In the 27th minute, after a French corner had reached the box and bounced, Hernandez’s substitute Theo Hernandez sent it away as if he knew precisely the path of Adrien Rabiot’s header. Rabiot, slightly right of center in front of goal, directs it to the left.
In the 31st minute, Mbappé and Rabiot manage to get the ball away from Nathaniel Atkinson, which means that Mbappé can move back in the blur towards Rabiot, and Rabiot can move to the left of the box and cross forward towards Giroud, who slipped it into the net.
“And even though we were a little scared towards the end of the first half,” Deschamps said of an Australian header from Jackson Irvine that bounced off and hit the left post, leaving goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with an expression that suggested he had seen better. defense in his time”, then in the second half we showed a lot more confidence. We forced Australia on the back foot and created a lot of chances.
In the 68th minute, just after a frenzy where Australian defender Mitch Duke had to save one heading for another goal, another frenzy broke out with Mbappé thundering down the left. He sent a ball rolling past the goal and across the box, where Ousmane Dembélé picked it up. Dembélé crossed him in the middle, where Mbappé rose in the middle of two defenders and directed him towards the left post, where he cored.
And in the 71st minute, Mbappé made another drive, dancing across the left and sending in a curling cross led by Giroud.
“So of course it’s good,” Deschamps said. “We could have scored more. But it’s a very good start to the tournament. The opening game is always vital. It’s always important. So I want to congratulate the team and the players. We’ve seen games earlier where a team couldn’t respond, but we did.
They did so against an Australia that had scratched the ground beating Peru in one of the Intercontinental Qualifiers, and faltered towards the end of their Asian qualifier, and have just two players in the big five European leagues, both generally reserves. . Yet the French ran around their first enemy here in a way that suggested an awareness of their capabilities. “It’s very good for our self-confidence,” Giroud told reporters at the ensuing press conference, “to have turned things around”, having won just one of his previous six matches.
France had looked like France, and also unlike France.
World Cup in Qatar
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Support for groups: The United States men’s national soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star striker Christian Pulisic, has qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement on its disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a close look how all the teams in each group rank.