Kazan (IANS) Midfielder Paul Pogba scored the winning goal for France, who overcame Australia 2-1 in a FIFA World Cup Group C contest here on Saturday.
Pogba’s 80th-minute strike, a chip which kissed the cross-bar before moving in, gave France the 2-1 lead after Mile Jedinak’s 62nd-minute penalty had cancelled Antoine Griezmann’s conversion from the penalty spot four minutes earlier.
France’s coach Didier Deschamps depended on a young squad, only three French players were above 25 years old, with Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele as the frontmen at the Kazan Arena.
There were also no surprises in Bert van Marwijk’s Australia lineup, which tried to meet France with a classic 4-4-2 plan, staying solid in the rear while waiting for some miracle from star Aussie forward Andrew Nabbout.
France struggled throughout the match to get past Van Marwijk’s defence line, while the Socceroos offered a strong game that made the match even for the most part, with the first half ending goalless.
In the first 20 minutes, Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan made as many as four saves, including a close-range flick from 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe, who became the youngest player to appear for France at a major championship.
France swarmed around the Australian goal but couldn’t get near the Australian box as Griezmann tested Ryan with a drive from outside of the box.
However, it was Australia who had the first half’s best chance. Midfielder Aaron Mooy swung in a dangerous free-kick which took a nick off Corentin Tolisso and almost crept into the bottom corner for an own goal.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Joshua Risdon fouled the Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann inside the box and initially referee Andres Cunha refused any decision. But seconds later, World Cup history was made when Cunha made use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review. Griezmann converted the resulting penalty, firing to the right corner.
A few minutes later, Samuel Umtiti weirdly raised his hand to a free-kick from the right, resulting in a penalty. Jedinak stepped up to successfully convert the penalty and pull Australia level 1-1.
Later, just when it seemed the game would be heading for a draw, a late shot from Manchester United star midfielder Pogba looped off Australian defender Aziz Behich before hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing just over the goal line.
Though Australia pushed forward in search of an equalizer, France held on to seal an unconvincing victory.
After the loss, Australia coach Van Marwijk said that a draw would have been a fair result.
“I’m disappointed because I think we deserved a point. We can be proud of the way we played against one of the best teams in the world. I think we played a great game. I cannot blame any of my players, I can only give them compliments. There were many situations in which France did not know what to do anymore. At least we deserved a draw,” the Dutch tactician said.