Forget about the scuttled submarine deal that plunged Australia-France relations to an historic low. Paris and Canberra are acting like besties again, thanks to football and online bantz.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have spent most of the weekend joshing about their national teams — Les Bleues and the Matildas — facing off in the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup, which Australia is co-hosting with New Zealand.
Ahead of the Saturday match, Albanese threw down the gauntlet in a social media post. “How about a bet @EmmanuelMacron? If [Australia] win tonight, you’ll support Australia in the semi-finals. If [France] win, I’ll support France. Deal?” the Aussie leader wrote. Macron gamely accepted the challenge, not without first praising Australia for “brilliantly” co-organizing the tournament.
The camaraderie is a far cry from where the two country’s relations stood in 2021, when France recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the U.S. after the two countries and the U.K. had cut a deal — dubbed AUKUS— to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which entailed the cancellation of a pre-existing €53 billion contract with France. Paris’s fury at the loss was palpable, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling AUKUS “really a stab in the back.”
That ire appears to have subsided, at least when it comes to football. After the Matildas defeated Les Bleues 7-6 in a thrilling penalty shoot-out on Saturday, Macron said he will respect the bet. That might not have been too hard, given whom Australia is playing against in the next round. “Nothing personal against our English friends, but a bet is a bet,” Macron posted. “Good luck Australia for the semi-finals!”