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World Cup 2022: Giroud equals record as France win opener

November 22, 2022

Olivier Giroud equaled France’s all-time scoring record in a 4-1 victory against Australia on Tuesday. The striker scored twice — his 50th and 51st for Les Bleus — as France turn to the veteran for their goals in Qatar.

Fußball-WM Katar 2022 | Frankreich v Australien
Image: Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua/IMAGO

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. The Adelaide United forward made no mistake, emphatically lashing the ball into the roof of the net.

'A pride, an honor'

France recovered from the early blow and it was Giroud's night, scoring two, including his 51st in 115 games for France, to equal the record set by Thierry Henry.

"It's a pride, an honor," Giroud said at full-time. "I appreciate all the work I've done, but also the great French teams in which I've played. It's also a collective work, I try to finish the work of the guys."

Before the comeback was the scare. With another shockbrewing, it took Australia's goal to jolt France into action. Adrien Rabiot tapped in an equaliser, with Giroud scoring his pair of goals each side of Kylian Mbappe's first goal in Qatar.

 Australia celebrates his goal during the Group D match between France and Australia of the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Australia took the lead — but their joy was short-lived.Image: Li Ming/Xinhua/IMAGO

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 sometimes struggles to click in a France shirt, bringing his best performances for Real Madrid.

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, and Giroud spoke of his understanding with his teammates.

French issues temper celebrations

A greater concern for France coach Didier Deschamps will be his side's mounting injuries at the back. Lucas Hernandez, the Bayern Munich defender, will miss the rest of the World Cup, injured in the build-up to Australia's goal.

Raphael Varane is still not fit and the injured Presnel Kimpembe is already out of the tournament, robbing Deschamps of his first-choice pair. Former RB Leipzig pair Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate held things together here but things aren't ideal for the French, even if Deschamps can call upon an impressive list of reserves.

"I will find other solutions in relation to Lucas," said Deschamps. "If we want to be quiet in all positions we should take 33 players! Theo (Hernandez) is there, then there will be other alternatives."

The cascading list of injured French players includes Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, which has left the coach with a midfield conundrum too.

Theo Hernandez, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud of France celebrate the 4-1 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 football match between France and Australia
Mbappe scored a rare header for France, his first goal in Qatar.Image: Joel Marklund/BILDBYRAN/IMAGO

Giroud quietly delivers

But up front, Giroud continues to do his best work in the shadows. The perennially underappreciated finisher has pedigree. He's 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.