So Near Yet So VAR For Socceroos
Our Socceroos were valiant in defeat, again -- and remain alive in World Cup 2018.
What you need to know
- France 2 - Australia 1
- 13' Yellow Card -- Mathew Leckie (AUS)
- 57' Yellow Card -- Josh Risdon (AUS)
- 58' Goal (Penalty) -- Antoine Griezmann (FRA)
- 62' Goal (Penalty) -- Mile Jedinak (AUS)
- 76' Yellow Card -- Corentin Tolisso (FRA)
- 80' Goal -- Paul Pogba (FRA)
- 87' Yellow Card -- Aziz Behich (AUS)
The formula was simple. A close loss was as good as a draw. A draw as good as a win. A win would be the greatest result in Socceroos World Cup history, and were Sunday a weekday, Bob Hawke would give everyone the day off.
Thus, Australia's 2-1 defeat to France satisfied the close loss criteria. However the Socceroos should feel slightly disappointed they didn't claim a draw at Kazan Arena; with the scores tied for most of the contest.
Mile Jedinak was surprisingly renamed to the starting lineup to reclaim the captain's arm band, after two games on the bench. Andrew Nabbout started at centre forward to continue his exponential rise, having made his international debut less than three months ago.
From kick-off, the speed differential between the teams was apparent; France were a blur compared to Australia.
Goalkeeper Matt Ryan was tested early and often: a clutch near-post save in the 2nd minute, an over-the-wall free kick in the 5th, and a sharp chance from Antoine Griezmann in the 6th.
Ask any Socceroos fan during the World Cup Qualifiers about their biggest frustration, and the answer would be Aaron Mooy. The talisman of his English club Huddersfield, Mooy had been inconsistent in green-and-gold.
Near absolution though, when Mooy found Mat Leckie's head from a crossed free kick in the 17th minute, just denied by the French goalkeeper as the ball fell agonisingly out of reach for Trent Sainsbury. This provided the turning point for Australia to settle into the match.
Whilst the Socceroos were able to enjoy more possession through the remainder of the 1st Half, a lack of midfield cohesion saw the ball lost cheaply at times. This was mixed with frustration from the more physical Australians, as Frenchman found the turf; searching for the referee's whistle.
France advanced again prior to halftime, but Sainsbury bravely manned the stockade in defence, to preserve a 0-0 scoreline -- the centre back would be Australia's best player for the match.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has made its debut for World Cup 2018. Australia found themselves on the wrong side of technology, after a Josh Risdon foul missed in general play was found on replay. A yellow card for Risdon and a penalty awarded to France -- the first ever from VAR at a World Cup.
Griezmann blazed the penalty kick into the back of the Australian net, a fireball that Matt Ryan was helpless to extinguish. France up 1-0 in the 58th minute.
Minutes later, Australia received a penalty in return, with a handball from French defender Samuel Umtiti inside the box -- the shortest ever interval between penalties at a World Cup.
Jedinak answered fire with ice, and coolly buried the penalty into the French goal, to bring Australia equal 1-1 after 62 minutes.
The 20 minutes that followed were the most even of the match. Both teams traded forays into opposition territory and Australia proved worthy of the occasion.
Paul Pogba ultimately ended the stalemate for France with an 80th minute goal that hit the crossbar, bounced sharply down and ricocheted backwards into the field of play; finding the inside of the goal line on its journey. The exquisite ball movement that preceded the goal flashed the championship potential of Les Bleus.
France 2 - Australia 1 remained the final score after five minutes of time added on.
We'll settle for the close loss, and look ahead. Far better than the nightmare start to World Cup 2010, when an opening 4-0 loss to Germany effectively ended our tournament in one game.
Australia should take plenty of optimism into their two remaining pool games, and still control much of their destiny in advancing to the second round.