Defending champions France overcame a slow start to power past Australia 4-1 in their Group D opener on Tuesday.
Australian forward Craig Goodwin sparked hopes of a repeat of Saudi Arabia’s heroics against Argentina earlier in the day when he fired past Hugo Lloris in the ninth minute. But while the Australians held their own in the first 20 minutes, the talent of this French side began to show as the game went on, as Adrien Rabiot equalized before setting up Olivier Giroud to put France ahead.
A superb header by Kylian Mbappé and a second Giroud goal completed a comprehensive victory and brushed aside any fears of a repeat of France’s previous disastrous title defense in 2002.
A slightly shaky defensive performance and a growing injury list will be a cause of some concern for manager Didier Deschamps, but this France side looks well-placed to go far in this year’s tournament.
Expected Goals (xG): France 3.58, Australia 0.43
Australia struggled going forward after their first goal, mustering only four shots to France’s tournament-high 22. The scoreline was a fair reflection of France’s dominance, even if Mbappé will be wondering how he missed a wide-open goal just before halftime.
Man of the Match: Antoine Griezmann, France
While Giroud will grab the headlines for equalling Thierry Henry's national goalscoring record, Antoine Griezmann delivered a fine performance as part of France’s reworked midfield. He attempted eight line-breaking passes, completing five of them, and he led the team with six key passes. He also found a teammate on five of his seven cross attempts and produced a shot on target in an influential display.
Best Passer: Adrien Rabiot, France
Rabiot answered his critics with a good passing performance, running France’s midfield and completing an impressive 91.0% of his 67 passes. The Juventus man contributed the assist for Giroud’s first goal and completed all six of his line-breaking passes.
Best Challenger: Aurélien Tchouaméni, France
Tchouaméni was key in breaking up what little resistance the Australians did offer, winning six of his seven challenges in his role in midfield. His 85.7% challenge win rate led the team for players involved in more than one challenge. He won all four tackles, one of his two 50-50s and the only aerial duel he was involved in.
There wasn’t much Hugo Lloris could have done about the only shot on target he faced in this game, but France will certainly need to call on their captain later in the tournament.
It was a day to forget for Australia's Matt Ryan, who saved just two of the seven on-target shots he faced and was caught out by Rabiot’s pass for France’s second goal. That being said, from a purely shot-stopping perspective, all four of France’s goals were deemed unsaveable by our metrics.