A historic VAR-assisted penalty from Antoine Griezmann and a late goal from Paul Pogba helped France to a labored 2-1 win over Australia in their opening World Cup Group C match at the 45,000-seat Kazan Arena here on Saturday.
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk expressed his disappointment after the match. He told the press that the Socceroos "at least deserved a draw".
"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," van Marwijk added.
French coach Didier Deschamps chose a fluid 4-3-3 formation, while Australian boss van Marwijk decided to go with a 4-2-3-1 shape.
Les Bleus came into the contest with a great deal of firepower, but their much-vaunted frontline of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele struggled to break down an obstinate Australian defense in the opening 45 minutes.
While France did force Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan into four saves, it was the Socceroos who had the first half's best chance. 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.
Into the second half, World Cup history was made in the 56th minute, when referee Andres Cunha made use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review system to award a penalty to France after Griezmann was adjudged to have been fouled in the area.
The 41,279 spectators in attendance also witnessed the very same replays on the screens in the Kazan Arena.
Griezmann then broke the deadlock by tucking home the resultant penalty, though France's lead was to last only four minutes, as Australia were awarded a spot-kick of their own after Samuel Umtiti inexplicably handled a cross. Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way from the spot to level the scores.
Just when it seemed the game would be heading for a draw, a late shot from France 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. The 1998 World Cup winners will take on Peru in their next game on June 21, while Australia will be hoping for better things when they take on Denmark on the same day.