A late freak own goal from Aziz Behich let France off the hook as they stumbled to a 2-1 win over Australia.
After a lacklustre first half, the French opened the scoring in the 58th minute with a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty.
Mile Jedinak scored a spot-kick of his own to pull Australia level, but the freak own goal with just ten minutes to go meant France came away with an undeserving victory.
Didier Deschamps’ team come to Russia as one of Europe’s brightest chances of lifting the trophy but not many of the big teams will have been worried by France’s performance today as they lacked a spark against a very game Australia side.
France started well and forced Matt Ryan into two good saves in the opening ten minutes. Kylian Mbappe was denied after being played through with a good pass by Paul Pogba while minutes later, Griezmann’s half-volley was grasped by the Australian goalkeeper.
However, from that point on, France took their foot off the gas. They didn’t close the ball down, they didn’t offer good runs and they were wasteful on the ball. In fact, it was the Australians who had the only other chance of the first half. Aaron Mooy’s free-kick took a wicked deflection off of Corentin Tolisso, but Hugo Lloris was alert to make a diving save and keep it out.
In the second half, the game came to life and it was all about a tale of two penalties. The first one, in France’s favour, was historic. Griezmann was brought down by a sliding challenge from Josh Risdon and at first look, it seemed to be a great tackle. However, after a lengthy look at VAR, the decision was made that a penalty be given and the Atletico Madrid star didn’t hang around as he blasted past Ryan from twelve yards. It meant that VAR has been involved in a World Cup goal for the first time ever.
The second penalty was less controversial, but equally as dramatic. Mooy’s floated free-kick resulted in a huge appeal from the Australian players for handball and the referee agreed, pointing to the spot. Replays showed an incredible mistake from Samuel Umtiti who clearly handles the ball and the pressure was on Jedinak to pull the underdogs level. The Aston Villa man kept his cool with a slotted penalty and the game was well and truly on.
Unfortunately for Australia, a giant slice of bad luck condemned them to defeat. Mbappe and Pogba exchanged some nice passes and the Manchester United man broke into the box. His control took a wicked deflection off the boots of Behich and the ball looped off the underside of the crossbar and over the goal-line. It was desperately unlucky but it meant France got away with a bad performance as they still got the win.
Written by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)