Holders France beat Australia 4-1 in the opening Group D game on Tuesday.
Australia striker Craig Goodwin raised hopes of a repeat of Saudi Arabia’s exploits against Argentina when he shot past Hugo Lloris in the ninth minute. But while Australia held their own in the opening 20 minutes, this French side’s talent showed as the game progressed as Adrien Rabiot equalized before setting up Olivier Giroud to put France ahead.
A superb header from Kylian Mbappé and a second goal from Giroud completed an all-out victory and swept away any fears of a repeat of France’s earlier disastrous title defense of 2002.
A slightly shaky defensive performance and a growing injury list will give coach Didier Deschamps some worries, but this French side appear well placed to go far in this year’s tournament.
Expected goals (xG): France 3.58, Australia 0.43
Australia struggled after their first goal, mustering just four shots to France’s tournament-best 22. The goal line reflected France’s dominance, although Mbappé will wonder how he missed an open goal just before half-time.
Man of the Match: Antoine Griezmann, France
While Giroud will grab the headlines for equaling Thierry Henry’s national goalscoring record, Antoine Griezmann performed well as part of France’s revamped midfield. He attempted eight line-breaking passes, completing five of them and leading the team with six key passes. He also found a teammate on five of his seven cross attempts and scored on goal in an influential show.
Best Passer: Adrien Rabiot, France
Rabiot responded to his critics with a good passing performance, leading France’s midfield and completing an impressive 91.0% of his 67 passes. The Juventus man provided the assist for Giroud’s first goal and completed all six of his game-changing passes.
Best challenger: Aurélien Tchouaméni, France
Tchouaméni was key in breaking the Australians’ little resistance, winning six of his seven tackles in his midfield role. His challenge win rate of 85.7% 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.
Hugo Lloris could not have done much against the only shot on target he had of the game, but France will certainly have to fall back on their captain later in the tournament.
It was a day to forget for Australia’s Matt Ryan, who saved just two of his seven shots on goal and was caught by Rabiot’s pass for France’s second goal. That being said, all four of France’s goals were deemed untenable by our metrics from a shot-stopping perspective only.