A gallant Socceroos have gone down to France 2-1 in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup campaign in Kazan, Russia.
The Socceroos withstood a blistering start by the team nicknamed “Les Bleus” (The Blues), but unfortunately for the Aussies it wasn’t enough to see them claim a winning start to the tournament.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan was busy early, making three saves… including a two-minute effort by 19-year-old French striker Kylian Mbappe.
During the opening 15 minutes, Australia appeared nervous as the Frenchmen enjoyed the majority of possession and this led to France dominating field position with their attacking play.
Despite this, the Aussies scrambled well, with their new centre pairing of Trent Sainsbury and Mark Milligan in fine form to deny France during this time. Unfortunately, Mathew Leckie was yellow carded in the 13th-minute for a foul on France’s right-back Lucas Hernandez.
An Aaron Mooy free kick soon after was Australia’s best chance to open the scoring, with French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris diving low to his left to prevent a Corentin Tolisso deflection going into his own net.
During the 30th minute Trent Sainsbury saved a precarious situation when Mbappe appeared to be in the clear with only Ryan in front of him… but Sainsbury managed to disarm him of possession to save the day.
The Socceroos settled into their rhythm not long after, with possession evening out and an unlucky miss in the 43rd minute when Tommy Rogic’s attempt sailed wide.
The teams went to the half-time break at 0-all.
In the 58th minute the match began to heat-up as the first ever World Cup VAR review of a penalty resulted in France winning a spot-kick. Josh Risdon’s tackle, which caused the penalty on French forward and European golden boot winner Antoine Griezmann was deemed illegal, after intially being waved away by the on-field referee.
Griezmann buried the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
More drama unfolded four minutes later, as Aussie midfielder Aaron Mooy sent a great ball forward, which was hand-balled by French player Samuel Umtiti – and a penalty was awarded to the Aussies.
The Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak stepped up to the mark and slotted it through for a 1-1 scoreline.
Both Jedinak and his Australian coach Bert van Marwijk echoed sentiment of what Australian football fans must be thinking; how proud they are of the Socceroos squad, but disappointed they didn’t come away with at least one point from this match.
Jedinak’s already looking ahead to Australia’s other two pool matches against Denmark and Peru.
“I’ve already told them if we maintain form and we maintain that discipline, structure and concentration throughout, not just in the games, but you know right from now, let’s see where it gets us”, he said.
Australia will be looking to take the aforementioned positives from this performance into their next Pool C match against Denmark in Samara on Thursday.