Olivier Giroud moved level with Thierry Henry as France‘s all-time top men’s scorer after his brace led the World Cup holders to a 4-1 win over Australia in their Group D opener at Qatar’s Al-Janoub Stadium on Tuesday.
Craig Goodwin gave the Socceroos a shock lead when crashing in a shot at the back post in just the ninth minute. But France soon roared to life and by half-time had the lead after Adrien Rabiot and then Giroud scored in the space of five minutes.
Two more quick fire goals came midway through the second half. Kylian Mbappe announced himself to the tournament with his first goal in Qatar before setting up Giroud to head in his 51st goal for his country three minutes later.
Les Bleus are the first defending champions to win their opening match since Brazil in 2006, which has already put them in good position to advance from the group phase, something Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018 failed to do.
The result puts France top of the group, ahead of Denmark and Tunisia following their goalless draw earlier in the day. It will also be a significant boost for coach Didier Deschamps and his side after the buildup to the defense of the title they won in Russia in 2018 was dominated by injury absences.
Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was the latest and biggest of those absentees, following an injury suffered in training on Saturday, joining a long list that already included Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
But there were impressive performances for those that took their place as France showed they will not relinquish their trophy lightly.
Rabiot, deputizing in midfield, headed home from a fine cross from the excellent Theo Hernandez in the 27th minute and then soon set up Giroud for a simple finish after stealing the ball down the left.
For 36-year-old Giroud, it was a big moment after he failed to score in seven appearances in the last World Cup. As well as his 50th goal for his country, it also made him France’s oldest goal scorer at a World Cup, replacing the legendary Zinedine Zidane.
After going close with a bicycle kick, goal No. 51 arrived for Giroud in the 72nd minute off a cross from Mbappe, who three minutes earlier had headed in a goal of his own.
Giroud will now look to break Henry’s record when France take on Denmark on Saturday. Australia, meanwhile, will be desperate to claim their first points when meeting Tunisia on th3e same day.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.