Australia were heavily beaten 4-1 by defending FIFA World Cup champions France in their Group D opener on Tuesday, however the Socceroos had something to smile about as highly-rated youngster Garang Kuol became the youngest-ever Australia international to play in the World Cup.
Kuol, honed by the Central Coast Mariners and bound for Premier League side Newcastle United in the upcoming January transfer window, came off the bench at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Doha in the 73rd minute. At 18 years and 68 days old, Kuol surpassed Daniel Arzani as the youngest-ever Socceroo playing at the World Cup.
“It’s a dream to come to this stage of football and only hard works get you there,” said Kuol in the post-match interview conducted by SBS, “Going into the game I was just excited to go on to the pitch and when the option came, I just wanted to get on the ball.”
Taking on a France side who boasted the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud in their starting lineup, Australia flew to a dream start in the 9th minute after Craig Goodwin blasted home past Hugo Lloris in the Les Bleus goal, however their lead only lasted for 18 minutes as Adrien Rabiot restored parity with a powerful header.
France then ran riot afterwards, making light of the loss of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Christopher Nkunku, Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez by overwhelming the Australian defense.
Giroud, the evergreen striker who seems to age like fine wine, gave France the lead in the 32nd minute with a simple finish that capped off some brilliant teamwork between Mbappe and Rabiot.
Mbappe then got into the action himself in the 68th minute. His pace down the wings too much for the Australian backline, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar lapped up a Dembele cross before heading the ball home past Mathew Ryan in the Australia goal.
Three minutes later Mbappe turned from scorer to creator, angling in the perfect cross for former Chelsea striker Giroud to head into Ryan’s goal, sealing all three points for France.
Kuol was then brought on to replace Goodwin after Giroud’s second of the game and the youngster saw some action against established European football stars that would surely be the norm once he stepped foot at St. James Park in January of next year.
Besides Kuol, Giroud also made history in the match, equaling Thierry Henry’s all-time goal-scoring record of 51 goals for the national team. And with France having only played one match in the World Cup so far and with Benzema sidelined with injury, there’s a good chance that AC Milan striker Giroud will surpass the Arsenal legend as being France’s all-time top scorer outright in this tournament.
Les Bleus‘ next opponent will be Denmark, with everyone’s first choice as this year’s dark horses drawing their Group D opener 0-0 with Tunisia earlier on Tuesday.