France had to come from a goal down to beat Australia in their opening World Cup group stage match.
Didier Deschamps’ world champions fell behind early on but rallied back with a superb team performance.
The Aussies took a shock lead after just nine minutes after Harry Souttar’s cross-field ball was met by Matthew Leckie, who cut inside Lucas Hernandez and crossed for Craig Goodwin to fire into the roof of the net.
Australia went close to doubling their advantage soon after when Theo Hernandez – on for his injured brother – surrendered possession too easily to Mitchell Duke, whose strike flittered narrowly wide of the post.
However, France found a leveller with 27 minutes on the clock when a cleared corner fell to Hernandez, and his cross was headed home by Adrien Rabiot from mere yards out.
The champions went in front not long after having won the ball back high up the pitch, with Nathaniel Atkinson robbed by Kylian Mbappe and Rabiot. The latter then selflessly squared for Olivier Giroud to tap into an empty net.
After recovering from their early setback, France were beginning to play their way through Australia. Mbappe was continuing to run rings round Atkinson and Antoine Griezmann fired wide from 20 yards.
Mbappe somehow volleyed a cross from Griezmann over the top from six yards out on the stroke of half-time, before Jackson Irvine headed against the post in stoppage time.
Just after the break, Giroud came close with an acrobatic overhead kick which licked the paint of Mat Ryan’s upright.
A last-ditch challenge from Kye Rowles kept Mbappe from getting on the scoresheet after a lovely one-two with Giroud, and Griezmann had a shot from 18 yards cleared off the line by Aziz Behich.
Mbappe at last got on the scoresheet midway through the second half when he leapt high to nod in a cleverly chipped cross from Ousmane Dembele.
Giroud then tied Thierry Henry’s record as France’s all-time scorer with a header of his own from an Mbappe cross in the minutes that followed Les Bleus’ third.
Ibrahima Konate forced Ryan into a flying save with his first touch of the ball, with the former Brighton stopper flying across his line to deny the header Hernandez had a header of his own kept out seconds later.
France’s victory was confirmed following seven minutes of stoppage time, becoming the first reigning world champion to win their opening group stage match since Brazil in 2006.
GK: Hugo Lloris – 5/10 – Couldn’t do a lot about either the goal or Australia’s best attacks.
RB: Benjamin Pavard – 5/10 – Worked his socks off but only after he lost the run of Goodwin for the first goal.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 6/10 – Wasn’t the finest of performances but it didn’t really matter too much.
CB: Dayot Upamecano – 6/10 – Distribution was sometimes askew. Why William Saliba or Jules Kounde didn’t start is a mystery.
LB: Lucas Hernandez – N/A – Injured his knee in the lead up to Australia’s opener and was replaced by his brother.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 7/10 – Seemed overawed at first but grew into the game.
CM: Adrien Rabiot – 8/10 – Carried his surprisingly resurgent club form onto the international stage with a hard-earned goal and assist.
RM: Ousmane Dembele – 8/10 – Played to feet a bit more than he would’ve liked but he dug in deep and was a huge asset.
AM: Antoine Griezmann – 8/10 – Dropped into midfield to form a three at times. Still so important to this France side.
LM: Kylian Mbappe – 9/10 – Australia’s only way of dealing with Mbappe was to hope he would miss his shots.
CF: Olivier Giroud – 9/10 – Works in tandem so well with Griezmann and Mbappe. Good value for his goals and his record.
SUB: Theo Hernandez (13′ for L. Hernandez) – 7/10 – Despite a nervy start, he showed he was much better suited to this system than Lucas.
SUB: Youssouf Fofana (77′ for Tchouameni) – N/A
SUB: Kingsley Coman (77′ for Dembele) – N/A
SUB: Jules Kounde (89′ for Pavard) – N/A
SUB: Marcus Thuram (89′ for Giroud) – N/A
Manager: Didier Deschamps – 7/10 – France love a good implosion and they could’ve fallen apart after going behind, but Deschamps and his troops rallied. A fine performance.
GK: Mat Ryan – 5/10 – Called into action on several occasions. Can’t really be blamed for the goals.
RB: Nathaniel Atkinson – 3/10 – Torn to shreds by Mbappe, but there’s no shame in that.
CB: Harry Souttar – 6/10 – The Outback Maguire. Got his head on seemingly everything and his range of passing was a massive plus.
CB: Kye Rowles – 5/10 – Defended with his heart on his sleeve.
LB: Aziz Behich – 5/10 – Slowed Dembele down at least but couldn’t totally stop him.
CM: Riley McGree – 5/10 – Had an early sight of goal, but then spent much of the game chasing shadows.
CM: Aaron Mooy – 4/10 – Looked leggy from the off.
CM: Jackson Irvine – 5/10 – Like McGree had his moments bursting up the pitch, but ultimately they were only moments.
RW: Matthew Leckie – 6/10 – Grabbed a great assist, but lost his man in Rabiot for France’s equaliser.
CF: Mitchell Duke – 5/10 – Ran his socks off before being replaced by Cummings.
LW: Craig Goodwin – 7/10 – A goal he’ll never forget. His early runs caused Pavard to play a cautious game.
SUB: Jason Cummings (56′ for Duke) – 4/10
SUB: Awer Mabil (74′ for McGree) – N/A
SUB: Garang Kuol (74′ for Goodwin) – N/A
SUB: Keanu Baccus (85′ for Irvine) – N/A
SUB: Milos Degenek (85′ for Atkinson) – N/A
Manager: Graham Arnold – 5/10 – Australia did all they could and that’s a credit to Arnold.