Friday December 09, 2022
Giroud equals record as France win against Australia
Published : 23 Nov 2022, 02:12
The title of reigning champion tends to bring a high degree of jeopardy at the World Cup. The defending champs have gone out in the group stage in four of the past five tournaments, including France in 2002, and this opening test versus Australia was a potential banana skin.
For a while, it looked like France might come unstuck again. The fired-up Socceroos flooded forward in the ninth minute, with Craig Goodwin arriving unmarked at the far post, with the Adelaide United forward lashing the ball into the roof of the net.
It was a moment to forget for France's Bayern Munich pair Lucas Hernandez, who pulled up injured as he failed to cut out Matthew Leckie's cross, and Benjamin Pavard, who fell asleep at the wrong time. Hernandez was subsequently forced off, with his World Cup potentially over.
With another shock on the cards, it took the goal to jolt France into action. Adrien Rabiot tapped in an equaliser, with Giroud scoring his 50th and 51st goals for France each side of Kylian Mbappe's first goal in Qatar. Giroud's total puts him level with Thierry Henry, but Giroud will now feel he can break the record in Qatar.
Giroud shines in Benzema's absence
The loss of Karim Benzema is an issue that may reveal its true cost later in the tournament, when his ability to produce magic moments is needed most. Although Benzema usually delivers his best performances for Real Madrid, sometimes struggling to click in a France shirt.
However, with a starting attack of Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele it's hard to feel too sorry for France; their depth of talent looks capable of absorbing the loss of the Ballon d'Or winner.
A greater concern for France coach Didier Deschamps will be his side's mounting injuries at the back, with Raphael Varane still not fit and Hernandez freshly injured. With Presnel Kimpembe also out of the tournament, former RB Leipzig pair Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate held things together for now. A talented but unexperienced midfield may also hamper them.
But up front, Giroud continues to do his best work in the shadows. The perennially underappreciated finisher has scored 51 goals in 115 games for France, is a Champions League winner, has won trophies in England, France and Italy and is now the oldest goalscorer for a European nation at the World Cup since Switzerland's Georges Bregy in 1994.
It was fitting that Mbappe, France's best player on the night and probably the best in the world right now, scored the third: a rare header from Dembele's perfect cross. Mbappe is now on 29 international goals at 23-years-old and will one day take the crown from Giroud that he'll soon take from Henry.
At 36, Giroud may be 13 years Mbappe's senior, but he will be crucial to France's hopes in this tournament, offering a focal point that many teams wish they had, including Germany. Benzema's dynamism and scoring ability is hard to replace. In Griezmann, Mbappe and Dembele they have a balanced attacking dynamic, while the evergreen Giroud quietly delivers the goals.