France and manager Didier Deschamps went into the 2022 World Cup with many question marks due to a massive number of injuries: Maignan, Kimpembe, Pogba, Kanté, Benzema, and Nkunku were entirely out of the list, and Varane was also having physical issues that prevented him from starting against Australia. To make things worse, Lucas Hernández got injured as Australia scored the game's opening goal and had to be substituted. However, France ultimately found ways to impose their talent advantage on the opponent and turn things around with a 4-1 steamrolling of Australia.
Le premier 1⃣1⃣ de cette Coupe du Monde— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) November 22, 2022
| #FRAAUS | #FiersdetreBleus pic.twitter.com/j2kOqhbZvz
Deschamps lined up with a somewhat fluid midfield unit that made the team's shape alternate between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. Sometimes Rabiot and Tchouaméni would look more like a double pivot with Griezmann ahead of them, alternating roles as the deepest midfielder. Especially after Australia's first goal, Rabiot moved forward more aggressively, often leaving Tchouaméni as the single pivot and turning the shape into more of a 4-3-3 with Rabiot and Griezmann as the left and right interiors.
Tchouaméni settled into the game over time, like the rest of France, but the start was rough. For example, there was some miscommunication with the back line and Rabiot regarding who should cover zone 14 (the front of the box). These issues improved after the Australian goal when France tightened up their defensive structure.
When France had the ball, Tchouaméni couldn't have as much impact initially because he struggled to shake off the Australian players tracking him in order to receive the ball. And especially in the first half, Tchouaméni was rather timid about going for the forward, line-breaking pass. In his defense, the French possession structure can be chaotic, which makes it harder to find a good forward passing option.
Regardless, Tchouaméni provided a safe option in possession throughout the game, with only three missed passes out of 76 (96% accuracy). His defensive game was also important when France had to win the ball back after losing possession, and he racked up seven tackles and interceptions with his work rate. And in the second half, he started passing forward and combining with teammates more readily. He was subbed out for Youssouf Fofana in the 77th minute.
France grew into the game after that first Australian goal. The injury to Lucas Hernández led to the substitution of his brother Theo, a far more offensive left-back option who revitalized the French attack. His runs with the ball and into spaces provided excellent support for Mbappé on the left, and a superb cross from Theo led to the French equalizer by Rabiot in the 27th minute. Soon after, Rabiot and Mbappé pressed the Australian back line, recovered the ball, and Rabiot set up Giroud for the second goal.
This is some heatmap from Griezmann in the 1st half of #FRAAUS— José C. Pérez (@jcperez_) November 22, 2022
On the left, on the right, in deep zones, and in the final third. He's been all over the pitch as the connective tissue that holds France's possession game together, and still had the time to create two big chances! pic.twitter.com/PeMv1UIgF0
As the French achieved their comeback, their possession game got more stable with the help of Griezmann. He was omnipresent across the pitch and became the team's connective tissue in possession. With this greater stability, Mbappé got more chances to do this thing in the final third and kill the game during the second half. He scored from a header in the 68th minute after a great cross from Dembelé and set up Giroud's second goal in the 71st minute.
Despite the tough start, France managed a solid start to their World Cup title defense. Even with all their injuries, their squad is still one of the most talented in the tournament, and it didn't take much for Theo, Mbappé, Griezmann, and co. to dismantle the Australian defense. However, they are far from flawless, and there are still doubts about how their defense and attack will perform against stronger opposition. We will get an answer to these questions soon, as France will face a steeper challenge against Denmark on November 26. The Danish beat the French not once but twice this year in the Nations League, so Les Bleus will be interested in taking revenge and ensuring their qualification into the next round of the World Cup.