Doha: Australia coach Graham Arnold admitted his side found France just too much to handle after the Socceroos lost 4-1 to the reigning champions in their opening game at the World Cup on Tuesday.
“At the end of the day the quality of the French team,” Arnold said when asked to explain Australia’s defeat in the Group D encounter at Al Janoub Stadium.
“They are the previous world champions for a reason. I thought we started the game very well but physically they were just so much bigger and faster and stronger than us today.
“Overall the boys did everything they could and that’s all I can ask.”
France needed a late own goal to beat Australia when the sides met in their opening game at the 2018 World Cup and the Socceroos raised the prospect of a stunning upset this time in Qatar as they took an early lead.
Craig Goodwin, starting after injury ruled out Martin Boyle, put them in front from a Mathew Leckie cross.
However, goals from Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud had France ahead before half-time, and Kylian Mbappe made it 3-1 midway through the second period before another Giroud goal ended any doubt about the outcome.
It was a punishing night at times for some of the Australian players, among them Nathaniel Atkinson, with the 23-year-old Hearts right-back given a torrid time by Mbappe.
“I thought the kid actually did decently well. He did his best against one of the best players in the world,” said Arnold.
“But how do you stop someone so quick? It’s very difficult. It’s a great lesson for the kid and he’ll move on from it.”
Arnold must now pick his players up quickly before what is already a crunch clash on Saturday against a Tunisia side who showed up well in holding Denmark to a 0-0 draw earlier.
“We’ve built belief and the energy and focus over the last week since we’ve been in camp, and the way we started I think we had that belief, but we just got punished for our mistakes,” said the coach.
“That’s this game gone and now it’s about winning on Saturday, so we’ve got to get ready for it.”