A clear victory in the fight against the world champion curse - and that despite an early double shock: defending champions France made a successful start to the World Cup in Qatar and, after initial problems, also shone at times. In the ultimately clear 4: 1 (2: 1) against Australia on Tuesday, the already injured French had to accept the next failure - and that could also be very bad news for FC Bayern: Because it was Munich left-back Lucas Hernández who injured himself after just eight minutes. There were some indications that there could be a knee injury again. An exact diagnosis is still pending.
France's predecessors as world champions – Italy, Spain and most recently Germany – were all eliminated in the preliminary round after their triumph. The curse also seemed to threaten the French when Craig Goodwin gave Australia the lead in their fifth consecutive World Cup appearance (9'). But Adrien Rabiot (27') and Olivier Giroud, replacing injured Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema (32'), turned the game around before the break. Kylian Mbappé (68th) and Giroud again followed suit (71st). With his 51st international goal, the double goalscorer joined Thierry Henry as France's record goalscorer.
The way it started, we can be satisfied in the end. There's still room for improvement. But we reacted quickly and were efficient in any case," said the striker: "I just hope Lucas isn't seriously injured. We dedicate this game to him.”
Fans paid homage to Giroud by chanting his name on a loop to the tune of the Beatles classic "Hey Jude." An opening win against the Australians is a good omen for the French. They also started with a win against the team from Down Under at the World Cup coup four years ago, but only 2-1 at the time.
In N'Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe, Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku and Benzema, five top performers from the French were out before the tournament. The starting eleven was still prominent. Three quarters of the defensive line consisted of FC Bayern players: Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano and Hernández defended with ex-Leipziger Ibrahima Konaté, who now plays for Liverpool FC.
But for the French fans among the 40,875 spectators, the game began with a double shock: Long-time Bundesliga professional Mathew Leckie missed Hernández and served Goodwin, the 30-year-old scored his third international goal. To make matters worse, Hernández injured himself while lunging and had to leave the field after almost five minutes of treatment. His brother Theo came for him.
The French took a while to recover from that opener and were lucky in the 22nd minute when Mitchell Duke fired a little too high from just under 20 meters out. And then they unexpectedly equalized at that point, when Rabiot headed in a cross from Theo Hernández unhindered. The game was turned just five minutes later: Rabiot captured the ball against uncertain Australians, got it back from Mbappé with a hoe and served Giroud. The 36-year-old had not scored at the World Cup four years ago, despite playing in every game. But even then he was an important element with his diligence and team spirit.
The French actually had the control of the game they had hoped for from the start. It was also fortunate that they went into the dressing room with an lead, however, as Australia's Jackson Irvine of second division FC St. Pauli headed the post in added time in the first half. After the break, the French now had everything under control. Giroud, who narrowly missed a side kick (50') and Antoine Griezmann, whose shot hit Aziz Behich off the line (65'), were initially unlucky. But then Mbappé hit a cross from ex-Dortmund Ousmane Dembélé with a head and four minutes later Giroud gave the next header.