VAR drama as Australia fall valiantly to France

Australia have been cruelly denied a point against football heavyweights France in their opening World Cup clash, falling 2-1 in Kazan.

Paul Pogba won the match for the French in the 81st minute, scoring when Aziz Behich deflected the ball over Mat Ryan.

Mile Jedinak equalised for the Socceroos from the penalty spot just three minutes after Antoine Griezmann scored a VAR-assisted spot kick.

After a second look, Josh Risdon was adjudged to have fouled the French striker for the first video assisted-awarded penalty in the tournament’s history.

The result was a gut-punch, as Australia were within rights to earn a share of the spoils after holdig their own during the contest.

Just as coach Bert van Marwijk wanted, the Socceroos were determined, compact and resilient, settling into the match after an early storm.

Mat Ryan made four saves within the opening eight minutes as the cream of France’s forward line strutted their stuff.

Ryan denied Kylian Mbappe at the near post, Pogba’s free kick and Griezmann’s long-range effort. After scooping up Mat Leckie’s deflected header, he didn’t have another save to make until the break.

The Socceroos grew into the game, frustrating the French.

Jedinak imposed himself, Aaron Mooy began winning tackles and drew Australia’s best moments from free kicks won by Robbie Kruse.

Centre-back pairing Trent Sainsbury and Mark Milligan were lion-hearted at the back, but undone on the 58th minute when Risdon brought down Griezmann.

Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha originally overlooked the incident but awarded a penalty on review.

Replays showed the Western Sydney man may have got a faint touch of the ball before collecting Griezmann.

Australia overcame the setback after a Gallic brain-fade.

Samuel Umtiti had a moment to forget when he punched rather than headed another Mooy set piece, bringing Australia’s captain to the spot.

The Socceroos were back in the contest just four minutes after falling behind, testament to their ferocious attitude.

There was never a genuine moment for Australia to go ahead, though substitutes Tomi Juric, Jackson Irvine and Daniel Arzani all brought dynamism to the Australia’s strong showing.

Instead, France’s class told when Pogba, Manchester United’s $180 million man, strode through midfield and poked at goal after a one-two with Olivier Giroud.

Behich got a boot to the ball but his intervention only served to wrongfoot Ryan, who saw the ball loop over him, hit the crossbar and bounce centimetres over the line.

The result will make it difficult for Australia to get out of the group stage in Russia, with matches against Denmark and Peru to come.

But on the evidence of Saturday’s match, wins against those teams are not beyond van Marwijk’s men.

Jedinak starts for the Socceroos. Pic: Getty