France conquer Australia with some help from video assistant referee technology
VAR was used at a World Cup for the first time.
France benefited from a controversial first use of video assistant referee technology at a World Cup as they laboured to a 2-1 win over Australia.
Antoine Griezmann put Les Bleus ahead with a contentious second-half penalty in Kazan after referee Andres Cunha adjudged the forward had been fouled by Joshua Risdon having watched a replay of the incident at the side of the pitch.
Australia, who felt aggrieved as defender Risdon appeared to have touched the ball before tripping Griezmann with his follow-through, quickly levelled through Mile Jedinak’s spot-kick, before a late goal from Paul Pogba clinched victory for France.
Les Bleus, led by an exciting front three of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, were overwhelming favourites for the Group C opener.
They began with purpose and forced three saves out of Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan inside the opening six minutes.
Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann produced the best of the efforts, connecting well with a powerful half-volley from distance which Ryan dealt with comfortably.
The Socceroos, managed by Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk for the first time in a competitive match, looked like they may be in for a long afternoon but they almost opened the scoring when Hugo Lloris reacted to prevent Corentin Tolisso scoring an own goal following Aaron Mooy’s free-kick.
France’s early promise quickly faded before they were presented with a perfect chance to break the deadlock in questionable circumstances 13 minutes into the second half.
Uruguayan official Cunha initially played on following Risdon’s challenge on Griezmann before pointing to the penalty spot after consulting VAR and viewing a screen next to the dugouts.
Defender Risdon perhaps had reason to dispute the decision, before Griezmann seized the opportunity, whipping the ball to Ryan’s left to claim his 21st international goal.
The lead did not last long, though, as Australia levelled with a spot-kick of their own four minutes later, and this time there was no doubt about the award.
Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti inexplicably handled a free-kick in the box, allowing Socceroos captain Jedinak to calmly send Lloris the wrong way.
Australia appeared to be heading for a deserved point following their dogged performance, but there was another unfortunate twist nine minutes from time, to the relief of France coach Didier Deschamps.
Defender Aziz Behich challenged Pogba just inside the box only to see the Manchester United man’s effort loop over Ryan and narrowly cross the line having bounced down off the underside of the crossbar, with the goal confirmed by goal-line technology.