Giroud and Mbappe ensure France avoid becoming the story on day of Argentina and Ronaldo drama

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Day three at Qatar 2022 spanned 11 hours from first whistle to last – more than enough time for the story to change and change again.

After 10 minutes, Lionel Messi was firing Argentina to their first World Cup in 36 years. After two hours, he and the Albiceleste had been humiliated by Saudi Arabia, who swiftly declared a public holiday.

By the time France kicked off against Australia in Tuesday's final match, their title defence and Argentina's "sad day" – as Lionel Scaloni described it – were second and third billing to club matters.

Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Manchester United was headline news, beating Messi in that sense at least.

It was going to take something truly special for France to wrestle back the narrative, and for a little while they threatened to do just that before running out routine 4-1 winners.

Was Saudi Arabia's victory the greatest World Cup shock of all time? How would Australia – eight points behind the Saudi side in qualifying and forced to go through a play-off – toppling the holders compare?

After the cacophony of noise in Lusail, which hosted swathes of Saudi Arabian supporters who travelled en masse over the border, Al Wakrah witnessed a sleepy start that did not suit France.

It took four minutes for the stadium floodlights to be switched to full beam; Les Bleus needed even longer to get going.

The eerie near-silence in an arena that – again – was clearly not close to being full was punctured by an Australian opener, as Matthew Leckie's outstanding first touch left Lucas Hernandez in such a tangle he had to be substituted injured.

Leckie deserved the slight deflection his cross earned from Adrien Rabiot, finding Craig Goodwin unmarked at the back post to fire into the roof of the net to the amazement of everyone watching.

Unfortunately for the Socceroos, there were only nine minutes on the clock, and they soon resorted to the sort of by-any-means-necessary approach that saw Saudi Arabia over the line in the closing stages earlier in the day, hacking clearances over halfway to nobody before the 20-minute mark.

This was not quite a meek surrender of ground, as Jackson Irvine's full-blooded challenge on Aurelien Tchouameni showed, but it was no great surprise when Theo Hernandez – on for his brother – found Rabiot unmarked to nod in.

France had been sloppy to that stage, with Theo Hernandez gifting Mitchell Duke the chance of a second, yet the roles of the two teams were reversed as Rabiot pinched the ball from Nathaniel Atkinson on the left and ran onto Kylian Mbappe's gorgeous flick to square for Olivier Giroud – Les Bleus' oldest World Cup player – to score.

From 0-1 to 2-1 in five minutes and 15 seconds – how the story changes.

Mbappe, jeered repeatedly as he drove towards the corner housing the Australia fans in the first half, quite likes being the centre of attention, but even a miss from point-blank range was not going to distract from Messi or Ronaldo this time.

Irvine's header against the post before the break showed France could not afford to become complacent, even if they were still not initially entirely convincing coming out of half-time.

Unconvincing but victorious would have suited Didier Deschamps, though. It is what his side were in beating Australia 2-1 four years ago en route to taking home the trophy.

Soon enough, Mbappe got his goal for the third, heading in via the post to a far warmer reception in front of the French supporters at that end of Al Janoub Stadium, and then he centred for Giroud to tie Thierry Henry's international goals record at 51.

Three points to top Group D should ensure France avoid the 'holders' curse' and advance at least to the second round.

However, with Denmark held by Tunisia, this day of drama may well have kept Les Bleus on a collision course with Messi and Argentina in a last-16 match-up many pre-tournament prediction maps would not have had them coming through.

Perhaps then Mbappe will come to the fore again, but neither France nor their talisman should have been concerned if his name was still not dominating the news agenda as the clock ticked towards midnight local time and the final whistle blew on a marathon day.