The Socceroos got off to a fast start in their FIFA World Cup opener against France, but the hopes of an upset against the European powerhouse were ultimately short-lived. France ultimately powered to a 4-1 victory, but it wasn't without a controversial moment on behalf of the officials.
After hitting the back of the net first through Craig Goodwin, the Socceroos were quickly forced on the back foot by a French team determined to avoid a shock upset. Back-to-back goals in the space of just five minutes for Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud quickly restored order for France by half time.
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The onslaught continued in the second half, with Giroud scoring again before PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe added the cherry on top. The Socceroos simply couldn't get settled in defence for much of the game - despite a brief second-half interlude in which a mix-up with the fourth official left them with 12 men on the pitch.
Twenty men on the pitch might not have been enough to slow down Mbappe and the dangerous looking French side, however the game was swiftly halted in order to make sure the substitutions came on properly.
A double substitution from Graham Arnold was supposed to see midfielder Riley McGree and Goodwin come from the field to be replaced by Awer Mabil and Garang Kuol. However the official displayed the same substitution board he had just shown to bring McGree from the field just moments earlier.
One of the more bizzare things I’ve seen.
4th official holds up board for McGree/Mabil
Then repeats it! So Garang goes on the pitch. We restart with 12 players then they realise.
Goody has to then come off!
— Jarrod Walsh (@jarrodwalsh) November 22, 2022
We needed 12 players to have a chance
— JayPea14 (@JayPea_14) November 22, 2022
Kuol nevertheless was permitted onto the pitch, only for the error to be realised moments later and quickly corrected, with Goodwin coming from the field. It was an amusing moment for Aussie fans in what had become a decidedly one-sided affair against France.
Despite the early opportunities, the Socceroos were generally outclassed by the French, who had more than 20 attempts on goal to Australia's four. Socceroos legend Mark Bosnich said the first-half goals were “completely avoidable”, while Daniel Garb wrote on Twitter that the second goal was an “unforgivable error” from Australia.
"Could have been a lot worse. Perhaps should have. Last ditch/scramble defending was pretty good but just can’t stop it getting to that point. One paced in midfield," Garb tweeted after the game.
Former England striker Chris Sutton said on BBC commentary: “Well talk about shooting yourselves in the foot, that is exactly what Australia do. They are careless in possession and Olivier Giroud is not going to miss from there”.
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Japan-based striker Mitchell Duke was Australia's focal point in attack, with Goodwin and Matthew Leckie on the wings. Australian football legend Harry Kewell praised the selections of McGree and Goodwin.
“Both players playing very well for their clubs but when I look at the team I see a good balance,” he told SBS. “I see a lot of experience and a lot of energy and players who can create different moments. I see a good old-fashioned forward in Mitchell Duke and again I am excited about this and I want to see something exciting tonight.”
The match was the first of Australia's group games at the Cup, with fixtures against Tunisia (Saturday, 2100 AEDT) and Denmark (December 1, 0200 AEDT) to follow.
Tunisia and Denmark earlier played out a scoreless draw in their first game in group D, with the African side surviving a dramatic stoppage-time VAR penalty check.
Danish substitute Andreas Cornelius also hit the post, while Tunisia themselves wasted two clear chances in their World Cup opening stalemate at Education City Stadium.
Tunisia were roared on by their sizeable following in the 42,925 crowd, whose deafening whistles and roars gave energy to their side and helped secure what had seemed an unlikely point before kickoff, despite the fact they are unbeaten in nine of their last 10 internationals.
Denmark thought they should have had a penalty in stoppage time for handball that was checked at the VAR screen by referee Cesar Arturo Ramos, but he instead - surprisingly - gave a free kick to Tunisia for a foul in the build-up.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 is on SBS and SBS on Demand.
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