Former World Champion France recovered from a lacklustre opening term to record a 2-1 victory over a valiant Australian side in their opening Group Câ€‹ â€‹World Cup game.
A stagnate Les Bleus outfit proved a comfortable opponent for the Socceroos in the opening term before the second half was brought to life by the historic intervention of VAR.
A tackle on Antoine Griezmann in Australia’s penalty box had originally been waved away by the referee before a historic first VAR World Cup decision saw a spot kick awarded and duly converted to breathe life into Didier Deschamps’ side.
Australia quickly returned the favour when Mile Jedinak converted a penalty of his own moments later before an unfortunate own goal sealed victory for one of the tournament’s favourites in the last ten minutes.
The opening exchanges at the sun drenched Kazan Arena quickly laid out the blueprint of what many expected from the mismatched affair, with Les Bleus dominating possession and Australia intent on disrupting France’s game as best they could.
Deschamps’ men had immediately looked to test Australian stopper Mathew Ryan early on with efforts from Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Griezmann all recorded within the first six minutes, although each shot had failed to truly test the Brighton stopper.
Having failed to be unsettled by the firepower on show from their counterparts Australia soon grew in confidence as they gained a foothold in the game, pressing France back towards their own goal as their early impetus subsided.
And their front foot approach almost paid dividends in the 17th minute when a headed flick on from Trent Sainsbury from a set-piece on the left hand side found the foot of an off balanced Corentin Tolisso, which required the desperate intervention of Hugo Lloris in the bottom corner.
The Socceroos’ unmatched pressure came as a delight to many of their vocal supporters in the stands as each touch and interception was cheered and every foul conceded met with resounding disdain – towards the referee and the French of course – to which Mark Lawrenson gladly joined in on from time to time.
A stagnated French outfit struggled to unshackle themselves amidst Australia’s organised and disciplined back line for much of the half, with the delivery into the front three offering little opportunity for a clear shot on goal in the opening 45 – giving the Socceroos’ defenders a comfortable start to their afternoon.
With the first term offering little in the way of clear cut chances it took merely 10 minutes after the interval for the game to spark into lift as France, VAR and the Uruguayan referee combined to make World Cup history.
Les Bleus’ had cut through Australia’s midfield to feed Griezmann in on goal before he was brought down by the Socceroos defender, to which the referee waved away on first sight.
In the next break of play a pitch side look at VAR saw the referee controversially rule illegal contact was made on the Frenchman in the follow through of the tackle, where the penalty kick was duly rewarded to and converted by the man who confirmed his future remains at Atletico Madrid earlier this week.
Australia, however, were not to be denied a spot kick of their own as their next attacking move saw Bert van Marwijk’s men given the chance to equalise just a handful of minutes later following a moment of madness from Samuel Umtiti.
The Barcelona defender had raised his hand into an absurd position as Australia whipped the ball into the box, this time the referee failed to hesitate awarding a second successive penalty – with Jedinak calmly slotting the ball into the bottom corner to level the scores with a third of the game to play.
Whilst the equalising goal momentarily blew wind into Australia’s sails, a series of changes up front for France swung the game into Les Bleus’ favour as they regained control of proceedings against their tiring opponents.
A slice of luck is often what is needed on the grandest of stages and France received just that in the 81st minute.
Pogba had burst through the centre of Australia’s defence only for Aziz Behich’s tackle inside the box to deflect towards Ryan’s goal and bounce off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net – securing three valuable points for France and leaving Australia feeling as though it was a chance squandered.