Al Wakrah, Qatar, Nov 22 (EFE).- Stepping in for the injured Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud scored twice here Tuesday to power holders France 4-1 over Australia in the World Cup 2022 opener for both teams.
Giroud, 36, moved into a tie with Thierry Henry for most goals in a France shirt as Les Bleus came from behind to put everyone on notice that they are serious about becoming the first team in seven decades to win back-to-back World Cups.
Kylian Mbappe, the breakout star of the triumphant 2018 run in Russia, scored to become the first player in the history of the national team to post five World Cup goals before reaching the age of 24.
And coach Didier Deschamps will also be pleased with the performances of World Cup debutantes Adrien Rabiot (a goal and an assist) and Aurelien Tchouameni, who provided defensive stability in midfield.
France came into the tournament seemingly diminished due to injury. Deschamps had to leave Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – key contributors to the 2018 title – off the roster and then watched 2022 Ballon d’Or Benzema get hurt in practice last Saturday.
The French started brightly, with Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele in the vanguard, but Australia grabbed the lead in the 9th minute, as Mathew Leckie brought down a ball from Harry Soutar and crossed to Craig Goodwin, who beat Hugo Lloris.
Besides conceding the goal, France lost defender Lucas Hernandez, who was hurt battling Leckie for the ball and left the pitch to be replaced by his brother, Theo.
The Australian defense blocked a shot by Antoine Griezmann in the 26th minute to set up a corner for France. Though the Socceroos dealt with the initial kick, Theo Hernandez sent the ball back into the box for Rabiot to head-in the equalizer.
Giroud put France ahead in the 32nd minute, assisted by Rabiot.
Mbappe fired over the cross-bar on a chance to widen the lead in the 45th minute, while only the post prevented Jackson Irvine from bringing Australia level in the dying seconds of first-half stoppage time.
An overhead kick by Giroud five minutes into the second half bounced off the woodwork and Mbappe fumbled several chances before giving France a two-goal cushion in the 68th minute.
The 4-1 came three minutes later, as Giroud completed the brace with a header to equal Henry with 51 goals.
France lead Group D with 3 points, followed by Tunisia and Denmark with a point apiece after their scoreless draw earlier Tuesday. EFE lmpg/dr