VAR made its first game-changing impact at the World Cup in Kazan, where a penalty was awarded before Paul Pogba’s looping shot in the 80th minute allowed a sluggish France side to escape with a 2-1 victory over Australia in the opening match in Group C.
In the 55th minute, Antoine Griezmann broke into the penalty area, where Joshua Risdon appeared to have made a proper tackle to knock the ball away from Griezmann and to Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan. After play continued, video assistant referee Mauro Vigliano signaled to Andres Cunha to review the play just off the pitch.
After examining the replay, Cunha awarded a penalty to France, which Griezmann calmly slammed into the net in the 57th minute to open the scoring. Risdon was also given a yellow card for denying an obvious goal-scoring chance.
It was a short-lived lead for Les Bleus, however, as Australia equalized via a clear-cut penalty four minutes later. France defender Samuel Umtiti inexplicably made contact with the ball with his hand in the penalty area trying to clear a free kick taken by Aaron Mooy.
Mile Jedinak pulled the Socceroos level by putting the ball into the right side of the net as France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris dove in the opposite direction.
The introduction of substitute Olivier Giroud gave some shape to Les Bleus, who were able to pin Australia in its final third though not creating many threatening chances. The decisive goal by Pogba came after a pass from Giroud, and the Manchester United midfielder took a toe poke from the top of the penalty area that may have taken a slight deflection off an Australian defender as it looped over Ryan and hit the crossbar before dropping completely over the line to make it 2-1.
The three points gained hides plenty of issues for France, considered one of the pre-World Cup favorites with a very talented but also very young side under Didier Deschamps. Les Bleus failed to establish a rhythm for much of the match against a well-drilled Australia side that was not afraid to venture forward when it gained possession.
After an early flurry by France in the first 10 minutes of the match in which Ryan had to be alert on multiple occasions, Australia wound up with the best scoring opportunity of the opening 45 minutes. Mooy curled a free kick into no man’s land, where France midfielder Corentin Tolisso touched the ball and forced Lloris into a diving save by his left post.
France moves onto its second match in Group C against Peru on Thursday at Ekaterinburg, while Australia will try to regroup versus Denmark the same day in Samara.