France looked to be succumbing to the curse of the holders in their opening group stage game with outsiders Australia, falling behind early on to a goal from Craig Goodwin. However, the champions flexed their muscle and ended up hammering the Socceroos’ 4-1, with Olivier Giroud tying Thierry Henry’s all-time France scoring in the process.
Next up were Denmark, who felt the wrath of a ruthless Kylian Mbappe. The PSG star scored a match-winning brace to lead France to a 2-1 victory late on.
With qualification to the last 16 secured, Didier Deschamps decided to make near wholesale changes for their final group game against Tunisia, succumbing to a 1-0 loss. France appealed to FIFA that a 98th minute equalizer from Antoine Griezmann was wrongly overturned by VAR as the following kick-off had taken place, but it was rejected.
First up in the knockout stages were Poland, who were fairly easily swept 3-1 aside thanks again to heroics from Mbappe, at this point now the standout player of the World Cup.
France’s quarter-final with England was not as straightforward, however. Aurelien Tchouameni opened the scoring with a screamer from 25 yards, but the Three Lions had the champions on the ropes for much of the match, eventually levelling through a Harry Kane penalty. Giroud put Les Bleus back in front late on before Kane skied one last spot kick.
Morocco had already upset the status quo several times at this World Cup with victories over Belgium, Spain and Portugal, which meant that Deschamps’ team had to have their wits about them in the semi-final.
There was early breathing room thanks to Theo Hernandez’s impressive early strike, before Morocco failed to make their spell on top for much of the second half. Substitute Randal Kolo Muani eventually poached a killer second goal to send Les Bleus back to another final.
France showed exactly why they are world champions in their quarter-final victory against England.
Though Gareth Southgate’s side showed a resilience and confidence befitting of a team ready to go all the way, Deschamps’ men kept them at bay from open play and plucked the Three Lions off with a ruthlessness typical of winners.
If France are to go back-to-back, then such a win will be looked back upon as their turning point.