The Socceroos have opened their FIFA World Cup™ campaign with a narrow 2-1 loss to France at the Kazan Arena.
It was an often scrappy but always enthralling contest in the hugely anticipated Group C opener, punctuated by the award of two second half penalties and an 81st minute Paul Pogba winner that would eventually ended a spirited performance from Australia.
After surviving a barrage of early pressure from the 1998 Champions, Bert van Marwijk's side settled into the contest and entered the half time level interval having contained their star-studded France opponents.
The match exploded into life when referee Andres Cunha awarded France a penalty following Joshua Risdon’s sliding challenge on Antoine Griezmann 10 minutes into the second half following consultation with VAR.
The Atletico Madrid man blasted the ensuing penalty past Mathew Ryan to hand Didier Deschamps’ side the advantage, but just three minutes later Australia were handed a spot kick of their own after France defender Samuel Umtiti swung a wayward arm at Aaron Mooy’s free kick delivery.
Returning skipper Mile Jedinak calmly placed the penalty into the bottom right corner, sending France gloveman Hugo Lloris the wrong way restoring parity for van Marwijk's side.
The match would return into the see-sawing arm wrestle of the first half following Jedinak's spot-kick, but Pogba popped up late to spare France's blushes, clipping the ball over Ryan to hand Didier Deschamps' side an early advantage in Group C.
Attention now turns to Wednesday evening's crucial fixture against Denmark at the Cosmos Arena in Samara, kick off 10:00pm AEST.
SOCCEROOS TEAM NEWS
Starting XI: Mathew Ryan; Joshua Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Mark Milligan, Aziz Behich; Mile Jedinak, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic; Mathew Leckie, Robbie Kruse, Andrew Nabbout
Substitutes: Tomi Juric on for Andrew Nabbout (64’), Jackson Irvine for Tom Rogic (71’), Daniel Arzani on for Robbie Kruse (84’)
STORY OF THE GAME
- 2’ CHANCES – Mathew Ryan was kept busy as France dominated the opening exchanges. The Socceroos number one first parried a Kylian Mbappe effort at the near post after the 19-year-old forward had darted beyond the Australian rear-guard. In the following minutes Ryan comfortably gathered a Paul Pogba free kick and was on guard to collect Antoine Griezmann’s snapshot from outside the box.
- 13’ YELLOW CARD – Mathew Leckie was first into the referees’ book after the Socceroos right-winger felled France fullback Lucas Hernandez with a late sliding challenge.
- 17’ CHANCE – Despite their early supremacy, Les Bleus’ goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to remain alert to palm away Mile Jedinak’s header. Aaron Mooy’s free kick from the left was flicked on by the returning Socceroos’ skipper and after a deflection from Corentin Tolisso took the ball out of the path of Trent Sainsbury, Lloris dived low to his left to palm the ball out for a corner.
- 31’ RECOVERY – Australia had settled by the half hour mark but after coming within inches of opening the scoring at the other end earlier in the half, Sainsbury made a key intervention at the back. Antoine Griezmann was through on goal after bringing down a clipped pass from Tolisso, but a superb recovery from Sainsbury averts a dangerous situation.
- 33’ CHANCE – This time it’s Sainsbury’s centre-half partner Mark Milligan who came to the rescue for Australia. France work an overload on the left where Hernandez flashes a shot across goal, but Milligan is there to snuff out the danger.
- 45’ CHANCE AUSTRALIA – The Socceroos end the opening stanza with a flurry: Mathew Leckie can’t divert an Aziz Behich ball goalward, before the fullback curls the resulting France clearance wide of the post.
- 56’ PENALTY FRANCE – After consulting the VAR, referee Andres Cunha awards France a penalty after Joshua Risdon caught the heel of Griezmann, who had raced onto a Pogba through ball. Risdon received a yellow card, the Atletico Madrid striker made no mistake from the spot: hammering the spot-kick to Ryan’s left.
- 62’ PENALTY AUSTRALIA – A brain explosion from Samuel Umtiti sees the France defender swing an arm at an Aaron Mooy free kick, with referee Cunha pointing the spot for the second time in the match. Jedinak showed nerves of steel to send Lloris the wrong way and place the ball in the bottom right corner.
- 67’ RYAN TO THE RESCUE – A sloppy backpass from Risdon provided Australian fans with a heart in mouth moment but Ryan was quickly off his line to beat Mbappe to the ball.
- 76’ YELLOW CARD – A lovely turn of pace from Tomi Juric, who had arrived into the fray as a substitute for Andrew Nabbout earlier, wins a free kick centrally for the Socceroos after being brought down by Tolisso.
- 81’ RELIEF FOR FRANCE – After failing to trouble Australia for much of the second stanza, the Pogba advanced into the box and clipped the ball over Ryan, with the ball bouncing back off the crossbar and falling over the line.
- 87’ YELLOW CARD – Behich entered the referee’s book late after a foul on France attacker Nabil Fekir.
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