France, however, had to come from a goal down to register the win in their opener, after Craig Goodwin gave Australia an early lead in the ninth minute. Giroud found the net before and after the break, either side of a Kylian Mbappe goal after Adrien Rabiot equalized after Goodwin’s shock opener.
As it happened: France vs Australia | Points table
The Blues are the first defending champions to win their opener since Brazil in 2006, which has already put them in good stead to emerge from the group stage, which Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018 failed to do.
France, who lost defender Lucas Hernandez to a knee injury, have three points and lead Tunisia and Denmark by two after playing out a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.
It wasn’t quite the start France expected at the Al Janoub stadium.
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Goodwin hit the ball into the roof of the net over Mathew Leckie’s cross from the right, leaving Lucas Hernandez clutching his right knee after being beaten to the ball after nine minutes. Hernandez’s brother Theo came on and France continued to struggle to create space, with only Mbappe threatening on his left flank.
Australia were much more direct, making the most of the Blues’ non-existent midfield.
However, it was Rabiot who equalized in the 27th minute, leaving behind his marker to go home on the cross of Hernandez.
With Mbappe moving more centrally, the Australian defense had one more problem to deal with and that was clear when the Paris St Germain striker’s back heel inside the box was picked up by Rabiot, who slipped the ball so Giroud could tap.
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They played more freely from then on, with Antoine Griezmann’s low shot going wide and Mbappe firing his attempt over the bar as he ran to meet Griezmann’s cross from the right .
Australia kept France on their toes and came close shortly before half-time when Jackson Irvine’s header grazed Hugo Lloris’ right post after a rebound.
Mbappe caused more chaos early in the second half but couldn’t find the breakthrough, until he silenced the Australian fans, who in the first half were shouting ‘Who are you? ” at him, with a glancing header in the 68th minute.
Three minutes later, Giroud headed home past Mbappe’s cross before falling on his back in apparent disbelief and being surrounded by his teammates in a goal celebration that lasted longer than usual, giving a exhilarating feeling at the victory of France.
It took Giroud, who owed his place in the starting line-up to Benzema’s absence, 115 international appearances to score his 51 goals, while Henry needed 123 from 1997-2010.
There were more chances for France thanks to Hernandez and Ibrahima Konate, but the result was quite satisfying considering that in 2002 their title defense started with a 0-1 defeat against Senegal and was followed of a first-round outing.
Didier Deschamps’ France team will then face Denmark on Saturday, and Australia will face Tunisia on the same day.
(With agency contributions)