Liberté, égalité, normalité. Thankfully.

After a Tuesday that began with this World Cup being knocked off its axis by, of all sides, Saudi Arabia, it was the champions who set about setting it right.

The calendar had in fact turned to Wednesday by the time a 4-1 victory over an ultimately limited Australia was confirmed. But for the first quarter they’d given us all more than a hint that we could be in for further chaos, taking a lead and the game to Didier Deschamps’ side.

A tournament that has threatened to be about those not here – Mané, Benzema, beer, civil rights – as much as who are was given a reminder: in spite of crippling injuries, the defending champions have the depth and talent to cope and thrive.

Deschamps coped with the late loss of Karim Benzema by retooling his frontline into a foursome and once it clicked, it purred. Olivier Giroud equalled Thierry Henry’s scoring record with a brace. Kylian Mbappe, from the left, scored the third and assisted the fourth. Ousmane Dembele, from the right, had an assist and looked dangerous throughout. Buzzing in between was Antoine Griezmann, making it look like 2018 all over again. Quite the response. Quite the end to day three.

By the time we got things going at 10pm local time it had, all in all, been a quiet enough old Tuesday here in planet football’s new HQ. Anything to report? Oh, just Lionel Messi and Argentina having all of the wind taken out of their Lusails by MBS’s boys; FIFA and Qatar raising the capacities of the stadiums by 12 per cent overnight…for the craic; referees intent on giving us 15-per-cent more game time but none of the Danes, Tunisians, Mexicans or Poles able to do a whole pile with it and, finally, Cristiano Ronaldo ending the affair with Manchester United and the Glazers taking the breakup badly. Rangers really ought to have kept their bad news on the back burner for 24 hours.

Your correspondent, a glutton for the beautiful game but more so punishment in the form of agonising back pain, was intent on making our own bit of history by leaning into this, the most compact World Cup ever, and taking in two games in a day. Three hours of World Cup football was traded in exchange for six hours of public transport and barren desert whirring by the window. Plenty of time to check if the Herald’s healthcare plan covers chiropractor visits (it doesn’t).

Whatever about our own, this always shaped to be a night of Australian backs to the wall. Even shorn of the Ballon d’Or winner, France’s firepower was daunting. Graham Arnold knew much would rely on Celtic’s Aaron Mooy marshalling in front of his defence. He opted for a back four featuring three SPFL talents and the tallest man born in Aberdeen for a generation, Harry Souttar. In his shadow, Hearts duo Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson were joined by Aziz Behich of Dundee United. The Scottishroos were missing Martin Boyle, of course, but it was enough to be getting on with.

Atkinson was on the back foot from the off, Mbappe cutting inside and crossing the right back’s eyes after just five minutes, but there was cover and help from Souttar. The 24-year-old had represented Scotland at Under-17 and -19 level before becoming a Socceroo. Suppose if the SFA knew he did this good of a Frank De Boer impression they may have fought harder for him.

With nine minutes on the clock, all 6’6” of him stepped forward and pinged a raking cross-field pearler to Mathew Leckie who controlled and stole inside Lucas Hernandez in one, injuring the full-back in the process. Leckie scorched the ball across the face of goal and Craig Goodwin bundled home. All in keeping with the day’s very normal goings-on.

As Hernandez hobbled off to be replaced by his brother Theo, Deschamps’ injury epidemic looked to be deepening. Another French title defence threatened to begin as badly as the last, when they were stunned by Senegal in their 2002 opener. Mooy was shepherding but sparking the Aussies into attack, too. Forays started with him and French ones ended with him.

And then the second best left-back in the Hernandez household helped dig Deschamps out of the hole. The Aussie backline were performing manfully but when a 27th-minute corner was cleared, they slept, Hernandez Jr whipped it back in, Rabiot nodded past Mat Ryan and we were right back where we started. Except we weren’t. France now had impetus and their new fab four were sparked into life by it all.

The midfield of Aurelien Tchouameni and Rabiot had stepped up and cut Mooy off. Griezmann foraged, Mbappe found spaces and made more and Dembele looked for his own. In front of them was Giroud, who went an entire victorious World Cup campaign without scoring at all. He was off the mark here five minutes after the equaliser.

Atkinson will have nightmares about his role in it, a first touch made for Sunday League proving a Tuesday night gift, Rabiot pouncing and crossing for Giroud to roll it into an empty net. It’s bordering on blasphemous to label one so handsome as peculiar but there has always been a peculiarity about him. Overrated? Underrated? Just plain old rated? His career twilight has been terrific and at 36 he’ll very soon score the one that puts him out on his own. Top marksman for the country that gave this tournament Zidane and Henry, Platini and Fontaine. He’s hit 38 in 70.

By the time France were three goals to the good, it was easy to forget that Jackson Irvine had almost equalised on half-time, his hanging header tickling a post. Arnold’s side had little answer once the champions had stepped it up though, the addition of Jason Cummings to the Scots-heavy mix doing little to push France back.

Mbappe headed a third, Giroud his historic second and, when all was done, day three had become day four and we were off into the desert for one last shuttle bus. Normality never hurt so good.