DOHA: For 18 glorious minutes, Australian football was back on the biggest stage.
Until it wasn’t, as France scored four times without reply and ran away with a 4-1 victory.
When Craig Goodwin’s effort hit the net in front of the France crowd and stunned them into silence, who would have thought the game would turn into a situation where Australian fans would be fearing the worst with 15 minutes to go. always lose in the World Cup?
LIVE UPDATES: World Cup in Qatar
READ MORE: The Socceroos’ future rivals shoot at the World Cup
READ MORE: ‘One love’ prank dropped under FIFA threats
Rabiot equalizes for France
The goal was well earned, as Mat Leckie’s first and second touches were superb to take him around Lucas Hernandez (who was then taken off through injury and of all people replaced by his brother) and provide the assist, and when Mitch Duke’s 20 -yarda passed with Hugo Lloris probably beaten, tails were well and truly up.
After all, Saudi Arabia had done it earlier in the day – so why not Australia?
But where the Saudis had been tight and, more importantly, skillful in that shock win over Argentina, mental lapses quickly crept in for Australia as both a potential win and a draw faded into memory.
Adrien Rabiot’s equalizer was completely preventable as he was somehow left unmarked after a threatening pass into the area, before the second was outright fury for Graham Arnold.
Right-back Nathaniel Atkinson had arguably the most difficult task in world football – handling Kylian Mbappe one-on-one – and while the PSG superstar had the upper hand on several occasions, none of them had resulted in a goal.
Instead, Atkinson was needlessly caught on the ball by Rabiot, who played a one-two with Mbappe and then rolled a pass across goal to feed Olivier Giroud’s cross.
Perhaps the game would have ended differently if Jackson Irvine’s header just before half-time had hit the post instead of bouncing clear. But that’s unlikely, given the flurry of chances France created.
The Socceroos shocked the world champions with Goodwin’s goal
Such were their expectations of victory after taking the lead, the French fans were sending waves of Mexicans around the pitch within a minute or so of being in front – and if there was any arrogance it was proved justified by Mbappe and Giroud both scored headers, which again were more down to mistakes from the back than anything else.
Instead, it’s back to the drawing board with Tunisia waiting in four days and a mountain of mistakes to fix.
For a daily dose of the best of the latest news and exclusive content from the Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter for click here!
FIFA World Cup 2022 in pictures: Wales star shows sadness behind tears after match