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France humbles brave Australia 2-1

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Australia’s defender Joshua Risdon (L) vies with France’s defender Lucas Hernandez during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Australia at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 16, 2018. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP

France yesterday began their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over hard-fighting Australia, and in the process secured the three maximum points on Day Two of the Mundial in Russia.

Didier Deschamps-led team struggled in the early part of the first half of yesterday’s Group C opener in Kazan, but a penalty from Antoine Griezmann and a heavily-deflected effort from Paul Pogba gave Les Blues an opening-game victory.

Mile Jedinak had equalised for Australia from the spot but while the Socceroos will take the positives from their performance, Bert van Marwijk’s team face an uphill struggle to qualify for the last 16.

Heading into the game, France were the clear favourites and it took less than two minutes for Kylian Mbappe to get a shot on target, with the Paris Saint-Germain attacker seeing an effort palmed away by Mathew Ryan at the near post.

Pogba then sent a tame free kick straight into the hands of the Australia goalkeeper, before Antoine Griezmann’s half-volley was comfortably kept out by the Brighton & Hove Albion man down to his left.

However, that was as good as it got for the Euro 2016 runners-up as Australia slowly began to assert themselves in the middle of the park and the Socceroos almost netted a surprise opener in the 17th minute.

A free kick into the penalty area from Aaron Mooy was deflected towards the bottom corner by France’s Corentin Tolisso, who was thankful to Hugo Lloris for diving to his left to palm the ball away.

Australia rallied and started to push France back into their own half and although Deschamps’s side responded, finding themselves evenly matched appeared to have a lasting effect and Australia were rarely threatened before the break.

Griezmann fired this effort from 12 yards to Ryan’s left – with the goalkeeper not moving – but three minutes later, Australia got the justice that they felt they deserved when been given a spot kick at the other end.

Samuel Umtiti bizarrely put his hand up to alter the direction of a cross and from the resulting penalty, Jedinak calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.

The equaliser led to Deschamps making changes – including the introduction of Olivier Giroud for Griezmann – but as the match headed into the final 15 minutes, France’s only effort on goal came from a speculative volley from Benjamin Pavard.


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