France win as Varane continues recovery

Tuesday 22 November 2022 21:25

Manchester United’s Raphael Varane was an unused substitute as France started their World Cup defence with an emphatic 4-1 win over Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Our centre-back was declared fit for selection by Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps prior to the match, but he opted not to risk Rapha against the Socceroos, as he continues to build up his fitness, and instead selected Ibrahima Konate and Dayot Upamecano in the heart of his defence.

Despite Varane’s absence, Les Bleus bounced back from an early setback to blow Australia away 4-1, with a brace for Olivier Giroud and further goals from Kylian Mbappe and Adrien Rabiot putting the result beyond any doubt.

The match commenced with much anticipation, especially for the reigning World Champions, who fielded an exciting attacking quartet of Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Giroud.

But it was Australia who broke the deadlock within the first 10 minutes, when Craig Goodwin arrived at the back post to finish Mathew Leckie’s low cross.

The lead wasn’t undeserved, however, as the Socceroos had looked dangerous in the opening stages.

Australia’s opener appeared to shock Les Bleus into action, and just before the half-hour mark, they were level through Rabiot. The Juventus midfielder timed his run to perfection to finish Theo Hernandez’s pinpoint cross.

Just minutes after drawing his nation level, Rabiot turned provider, laying the ball into the path of Giroud, who made no mistake to slot home his 50th goal for France.

As the half-time approached, both sides went close to further goals, with Griezmann and Mbappe both squandering big chances before Jackson Irvine struck the post.

After the break, France continued to impose themselves on their Group D opponents, with Giroud connecting with a sublime acrobatic effort which flashed wide of the goal.

Mbappe went close again on the hour mark, exchanging quick passes with Giroud to send him in behind, only for Kye Rowles to intercept with a brilliant sliding challenge just as he pulled the trigger.

Les Bleus continued to search for a third goal, with Griezmann seeing a low effort cleared off the line, following good work by Hernandez down the left.

But just moments later, France did make it 3-1 through Mbappe, with the Paris Saint-Germain attacker rising high to glance Dembele’s header beyond Matt Ryan and in off the post.

It didn’t take Les Bleus to make it four either, with Mbappe powering down the left before standing up an inviting cross for Giroud, who headed home his second of the match to draw him level with Thierry Henry as France’s all-time top scorer.

Ryan made a superb stop in the closing stages, reacting well to deny Konate from a corner, and the scoreline finished 4-1.

Deschamps’s side began Qatar 2022 in the best possible fashion, and while Varane may not have featured, he will no doubt be eager to be involved in France’s second group game against Denmark on Saturday.