France 4-1 Australia: Holders Confirmed As Contenders


No Karim Benzema, no N’Golo Kanté, no Paul Pogba, no problem. Well, except for that whole going down a goal in the first 10 minutes. And losing another key player to injury. France have already trailed for longer in the 2022 World Cup than they did in all of their seven matches in their triumphant 2018 campaign, but as 22 November problems go, a questionable start in 4-1 win is comparatively minor.

On a day that started with Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia, the world champions also had a bit of a scare when Craig Goodwin beat Hugo Lloris high in the ninth minute. Lucas Hernández was lost to injury on the goal, and his replacement and brother Theo almost cost France a second goal with a bad giveaway just before the midway point of the first half.

Theo absolved himself minutes later with an assist to Adrien Rabiot, whose goal was his second in his last three matches for France after managing one in his first 27 appearances for his country.

Five minutes later, Rabiot assisted Olivier Giroud with his 50th goal for France with more to come. Giroud, who didn’t score in 2018 and is here as Les Bleus’ No. 9 after Benzema was dropped due to injury, drew even with Thierry Henry for the French goalscoring record at 51 in the 71st minute. Giroud finished with five shots amounting to 1.67 xG – individually more than each of the other 15 teams to play at the tournament so far (Argentina finished with 1.47 non-penalty xG earlier today). In fact, Giroud’s efforts tonight saw him hit the sixth-highest single-match non-penalty xG record in World Cup recorded history (since 1966).

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