A late Paul Pogba goal and a VAR-assisted penalty from Antoine Griezmann helped France to a scarcely deserved 2-1 win over Australia.
France were a long way from their best at the Kazan Arena, with their heralded attacking trio of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele failing to ignite against a dogged Australian outfit.
After a disjointed first half, the game sparked into life shortly after the interval as referee Andres Cunha awarded a penalty to France after consulting VAR and deciding that Josh Risdon had clipped Griezmann just inside the area.
The Atletico Madrid striker’s fierce spot-kick was cancelled out just four minutes later by another penalty, Aston Villa midfielder Mile Jedinak slotting home after Samuel Umtiti handled in the area.
Didier Deschamps’ side looked to be heading for a disappointing start to their campaign, but Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba saw his deflected effort bounce off the crossbar and narrowly over the line 10 minutes from time to secure all three points.
France will hope for a more fluid performance against Peru on Thursday, while Australia will look to get their campaign back on track when they face Denmark.
Les Bleus had started the game in ominous fashion, carving out three chances in the opening six minutes.
First, Mbappe was denied from an acute angle by Mat Ryan before the Australia goalkeeper comfortably held a Pogba free-kick and Griezmann’s half-volley from distance in quick succession.
Australia weathered that early storm, though, and came agonisingly close to taking the lead after 17 minutes.
Aaron Mooy’s teasing free-kick from the left was diverted towards his own goal by Corentin Tolisso, but a scrambling Hugo Lloris was able to turn it around the post.
France’s early verve was sorely lacking for the remainder of the half, with Australia able to keep their more illustrious opponents comfortably at arm’s length before the interval.
The game finally burst into life 10 minutes into the second period with Griezmann’s historic goal.
Risdon had appeared to get away with his tackle on the marauding striker, but after a consultation with VAR the referee spotted an illegal clip on the Atletico striker’s heel and awarded a spot-kick.
Australia bounced back superbly from that setback, though, and were level just four minutes later.
Umtiti’s bizarre decision to handle Mooy’s free-kick allowed Jedinak to coolly stroke past Lloris for what looked like being a share of the spoils.
Pogba had other ideas, though, sending a stabbed effort towards goal from the edge of the area which was cruelly diverted past Ryan by Aziz Behich to get the French off to a winning start.
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