It took a couple of contested decisions but France just about took the spoils in their maiden Group C outing against Australia.
Bert van Marwijk’s side came out of the traps with a dogged determination to nullify Les Bleus’ youthful starting XI, which, with an average of just 24-and-a-half, was the youngest line-up France have fielded at a World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1930.
Indeed, the first half proved to be largely barren, as Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele found themselves restricted to sporadic pot-shots and craven attempts to coax freekicks in advanced positions.
However, the breakthrough finally came 10 minutes into the second half when Griezmann forced the referee’s hand by striding into the Aussie box and plummeting to the ground.
Fussy referee Andres Cunha deferred the decision to VAR, who adjudged that defender Josh Risdon hadn’t touched the ball before clipping the French striker.
Replays appeared to show that Risdon got a gossamer-light toe-end on the ball but no matter, the grand high VAR council had spoken, and Griezmann did the honours from the spot.
France’s lead didn’t last long, four minutes to be precise, right up until the point that Samuel Umtiti took momentary leave of his senses.
The Barcelona centre-back inexplicably jutted out a hand to steer a Aaron Mooy’s deep cross away from the six-yard box, thus generously affording Australia a penalty of their very own…
Mile Jedinak then became the first player to have both captained and scored for the Socceroos at two separate World Cups when he planted the resulting spot-kick past Hugo Lloris.
The Aussies then began to impress themselves on the game as France struggled to forge anything even approaching fluency.
Indeed, it took the late introduction of battering ram Olivier Giroud for Didier Deschamps’ side to finally find a reliable focal point going forward.
It was the Chelsea target man who laid one on for Paul Pogba to score an 80th-minute winner when the midfielder’s touch ricocheted up off Aziz Behich’s outstretched foot, over Matt Ryan and in off the crossbar…
The goal was especially cruel on Ryan, who had made several excellent saves before that point.
So, hardly the most convincing of starts for the much-fancied French (or for VAR), but those three points on the board are irrefutable.