Paul Pogba’s late goal, on a shot that deflected off a defender’s foot and the crossbar before slamming down just across the goal line, gave France a 2-1 victory over Australia on Saturday in Kazan in the 2018 World Cup Group C opener for both teams.
The French, who have designs on a deep run in this World Cup, will feel the result was deserved. They struggled to break down a gritty Australian defense, however, and only took the lead on a penalty kick after Antoine Griezmann was tripped from behind midway through the second half.
Griezmann, one of France’s group of star strikers, coolly buried the penalty to give the French their first lead.
The penalty was initially waved away by the game’s Uruguayan referee, Andres Cunha, but he got a second look in the first test for the World Cup’s new video-assistant review system. Alerted to his possible error at the next stoppage in play, Cunha paused the game, sprinted to a sideline monitor, saw the trip more clearly than he had in real time, and awarded the penalty.
Three minutes later, it was Australia at the spot after France defender Samuel Umtiti was whistled for a handball on a cross. This time, too, it appeared the whistle came after a brief delay, though it was unclear if Cunha had simply rewound the play in his mind or been alerted to the handball by a VAR watching in Moscow.
Either way, it was a penalty, and Mile Jedinak quickly rolled in a shot that erased France’s lead.
Pogba’s winner, off a neat give-and-go with substitute Olivier Giroud, put France ahead to stay.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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