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World Cup Group D: Olivier Giroud scores twice, France buries Australia after conceding first

Olivier Giroud France World Cup Australia
France’s Olivier Giroud, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup group D soccer match between France and Australia, at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

No N’Golo Kante, no Paul Pogba, no Karim Benzema, no problem for France. 

The defending World Cup winners overcame a surprising early deficit to Australia but unlike following in Argentina’s footsteps earlier on Tuesday, Les Bleus came alive to romp in its Group D opener 4-1. 

For at least another few days, the premise of the World Cup curse is kept at bay as France looks to become the first repeat champion since Brazil in 1962.

Olivier Giroud scored two — one in each half — while Adrien Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe got on the scoresheet as well to trigger an avalanche of goals after the 38th-ranked Australia took an unlikely lead through Craig Godwin.

With it, Giroud tied the legendary Thierry Henry for the most international goals scored for France (51) while putting the 2018 run to the World Cup in which he didn’t score well behind him.

His first of the day came in the 32nd minute, just five minutes after Adrien Rabiot’s equalizer calmed things down for Les Bleus, who trailed in the ninth minute when Godwin turned in a low cross from Mathew Leckie.

The Australian winger who provided the assist took a long ball down perfectly in stride to deke French wing-back Lucas Hernandez, who fell to the pitch in agony and was forced to leave the match. 

The remarkable opener gave Australia something it hasn’t experienced much of at the World Cup: A lead. Over the Socceroos’ previous two World Cup appearances, they held a lead for a total of four minutes.

This lead lasted 17 minutes.

Rabiot got the champions level in the 26th minute off a recycled corner when Theo Hernandez — brother and replacement of the injured Lucas Hernandez — sent a scintillating ball over the top into the box where the midfielder headed it past Mathew Ryan.

Five minutes later, France was in front for good via Giroud, who was supposed to be the backup behind Benzema before the Ballon d’Or winner went down with a leg injury just prior to the start of the tournament. 

After forcing a turnover deep in Australian territory, Rabiot picked his way through the defense and laid it back for Giroud, who had a wide-open goal to finish in.

It should have been 3-1 much earlier when Mbappe was found wide-open in the center of the box in the 45th minute, but he skied his chance. 

Australia nearly found an equalizer two minutes later when Jackson Irvine had a free header inside the French box, but it hit the post.

Out from the break, France dominated the second half, outshooting Australia 11-0 in the final 45 minutes, to provide a further reminder of the gulf in class between these two sides. 

Just seconds after Antoine Griezmann’s shot was cleared off the line by a defender in the 68th minute, Mbappe got off the mark in Qatar by sneaking a glancing header off the left post and in. 

Giroud nabbed his second three minutes later to tie Henry’s French record and give Mbappe an assist when he nodded his cross into the bottom-left portion of the goal.

At 36 years and 53 days old, Giroud became the second-oldest player in World Cup history to record a brace (two goals). Cameroon’s Roger Milla did so at 38 years old back in 1990 to take the top spot on that list.

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