The game against Australia was supposed to help one of the favourites, France, make an opening statement of intent. Instead, they must be counting their lucky stars after they scraped through to a 2-1 victory over a gritty Australia.

On the face of it – World No 7 France have it all. In-form strikers, pace, guile, movement, a sorted midfield and some big-name defenders too. They qualified out of a group containing The Netherlands and Sweden and they did it in some style.

But if you were watching them take on Australia, their insipid style left a lot to be desired. Yes, Australia defended well and with a lot of disciple. They held their lines very well but France just didn’t have enough movement to trouble them.

This could be a worrying trend. In Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Greizmann, France had enough pace on the field but at no point did they look like they could stretch the Aussie defence. It really was a question of not knowing what to do with the riches at hand.

A huge part of the blame for that would lie with Paul Pogba. With Kante in the side, the Manchester United midfielder should be moving forward with much more purpose but instead a lot of his passes were going sideways for much of the game. The strategy meant that Australia’s defenders could set-up and grow roots if they so chose to.

Pogba was particularly lethargic in the first half but got a move on at times in the second half. One of those moves led directly to the goal. It might be enough against Australia but Peru and Denmark (the other teams in Group C) might not be as easy to put away.

France coach Didier Deschamps felt that his midfielder had a decent enough game but that comment could have been very different had that late winner not come their way.

“Paul Pogba gave a good performance today. He is a great player with great potential and has got what it takes. I think he felt more comfortable in the way we played today with three midfielders. He has the freedom to do more for the offense as when we play only with two midfielders,” said Deschamps after the game.

And for France to advance against tougher opposition, Pogba needs to do more with that freedom. He needs to set the tone for this young French side – 14 players in the French squad had not featured in a major tournament before today. And today, he just wasn’t there.

“It was a bit tricky today. Maybe we should have attacked Australia higher and set them more under pressure. We missed a bit our ball circulation and offensive flexibility. But we will improve,” Deschamps further added.

And they will need to improve. If anything, this performance should get them going. They would know they were poor and have not done justice to the talent they have in the squad.

Australia coach Bert van Marwijk put it best when he said: “I am proud and disappointed. I think we played a great game. I can not blame any of my players I can only give them compliments. There were many situations in which France did not know what to do anymore. At least, we deserved a draw.”

Too often have we seen the French teams come up short and fail to impress; too often have they seemed like a mere shadow of their true selves and too often do we not know whether Les Bleus will play to their potential. But still, for France, a win is a win and they still have the opportunity to show why they were installed as favourites by many.