Stadium: Kazan Arena
Kazan Arena saw the first encounter of group C as one the favourites of the tournament France took on Australia. France, coached by the man who captained them to 1998 world cup glory, Didier Deschamps, produced a far from convincing performance but managed to edge past Australia 2-1.
France came with their attacks in the opening few minutes, but Australia maintained their composure at the back. France were struggling up front with a lack of creativity in the final third, and their movements seemed predictable to the Australian defenders as we entered halftime.
However, history was made in the 57th minute when Antoine Griezmann was brought down by Joshua Risdon and a penalty was awarded to Les Bleus by referee Andrés Cunha after consulting VAR. Griezmann stepped up and hammered the penalty past Ryan. Australia got a penalty of their own just 4 minutes later when Umtiti handled Mooy’s free kick. Their captain Jedinak made no mistake from the spot.
Both teams looked evenly matched, with 50-50 possession and half chances until Pogba delivered a looping effort past Ryan in the 80th minute, that hit the underside of the crossbar before crossing the line. The decision was once again given by VAR. Australia could never respond as France dominated the final 10 minutes.
2’ – SAVE! Great burst of speed from Mbappe as he gets past the defence but his shot is denied by Ryan.
13’ – Leckie is shown the yellow card for a late lunging tackle on Lucas Hernandez.
57’ – Penalty to France! Referee has to overturn his decision after VAR shows Griezmann was caught inside the box.
58’ – GOAL! France 1-0 Australia. Griezmann powerfully dispatches his penalty, Ryan couldn’t even move.
62’ – GOAL! Australia equalize through captain Mile Jedinak from the spot after Umtiti handled the ball clumsily inside the penalty area.
64’ – The first change of the game sees Nabbout getting replaced by Juric.
70’ – Deschamps makes 2 changes for France in the attack as Fekir takes place of Dembele and Chelsea man Giroud replaces Griezmann.
76’ – Corentin Tolisso receives a yellow card for a professional foul on Juric to stop the counter.
78’ – The final change for France as Tolisso makes way for Blaise Matuidi.
80’ – GOAL! France go ahead again as Pogba combines with Giroud before chipping a shot over the Australian goalkeeper’s reach that bounces off the crossbar and crosses the line.
84’ – The last throw of dice from Australia as Robbie Kruse is substituted by Arzani.
87’ – Behich receives a caution for pulling back Fekir.
FT: France 2-1 Australia
Griezmann (**): He was all over the headlines after he snubbed Barça and decided to stay at Atletico, in controversial fashion. He had a decent game today, made 32 touches on the ball, had 3 shots on target, won and converted a historical penalty awarded by the VAR in Les Bleus’ favour.
Mile Jedinak (***): The Australian captain had a field day today. Alongside Aaron Mooy, he was the engine of the Australian midfield. A great defensive display, alongside the penalty.
*** Exceeded expectation ** Met expectation * Didn’t meet expectation
Paul Pogba – Had a say in both the goals and looked good overall. Made a great pass leading to Griezmann winning the penalty for the first France goal, and scored the second with a delightful lob.
Didier Deschamps’ team failed to register a performance worth noticing them as favourites. Despite a pool of talent and options in the bench, the formation and selection of the final XI could be questioned – where their wingers failed to combine with the striker and fullbacks pressured back by the crowded Australian midfield. As for Australia, they won’t be too unhappy with their performance but need to address the demand up front as ‘cross and hope’ bears no fruit without a reliable poacher.
Viewer Rating: *
The game was pretty scruffy, with lots of fouls from both sides. Both the teams were poor in the final third, France lacking creativity and cohesion and Australia needing a reliable attacker up front.
This match places France in the driving seat in group C, with Australia needing to win the remaining of the 2 group games against Peru and Denmark.