Antoine Griezmann scored the first VAR-assisted penalty awarded in the history of the World Cup as title hopefuls France need a late Paul Pogba goal to beat a gutsy Australia side 2-1 on Saturday.

The Atletico Madrid star wrote his name into the history books after he went down under a tackle from Josh Risdon in the second half of the Group C fixture in Kazan.

Referee Andres Cunha from Uruguay did not initially award a spot-kick but after viewing the VAR footage, ruled it was a penalty and Griezmann coolly slotted past Socceroos’ goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.

“For me, it was a penalty,” Griezmann, named man of the match, said afterwards.

“After the referee didn’t blow his whistle, I forgot all about the VAR… luckily for us the system was there.

“When the referee went to see the video, I thought it was a penalty. I was already thinking about how I would take it.”

But French celebrations were short-lived, Australia captain Mile Jedinak levelling only four minutes later after a clear hand ball by Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti.

Didier Deschamps’ men were frustrated throughout by a spirited Australian defensive display and French pride was only restored in the 81st minute.

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, still wearing a bandage around a recent head injury, had replaced Griezmann only minutes earlier and played a one-two with Paul Pogba on the edge of the area.

The Manchester United midfielder’s shot took a deflection off the boot of defender Aziz Behich before evading the outstretched hands of Ryan and bouncing over the line off the crossbar.

– Exceeded expectations –

While Australia coach Bert van Marwijk admitted his disappointment at seeing VAR used against his side, he praised his players’ efforts.

“I hoped that maybe one time there would be a very honest referee, and in that moment, that he wouldn’t go to the video screen,” the Dutchman said.

“I’m proud and disappointed, it was a very good performance. No one expected we could play like this against France. A lot of moments they didn’t know what to do any more.

“That’s a big compliment for us. If you lose because of a penalty you can talk about it… then (they scored) a lucky goal just before the end.”

Deschamps, a World Cup winner with France in 1998, will be thanking his lucky stars after a performance which poses more questions than answers about his ambitious side, the second-youngest in the tournament after Nigeria.

France are hoping to join tournament favourites Brazil, Germany and Spain in the latter stages as they look to make amends for losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal.

In a tight first half that saw Griezmann, teenager Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele fail to spark, it was the yellow-clad Aussie fans who have invaded the Tatar capital who had most to cheer about.

On 17 minutes France ‘keeper Hugo Lloris turned a dangerous deflection from Corentin Tolisso around his far post.

It was a huge sight of relief for Les Bleus, who went from making a bright start to finishing the first half wondering how to pierce the Australia back line.

Before Griezmann’s feat, Mbappe had made history at kick-off by becoming the youngest French player, at 19 and six months, to start a World Cup game.

Only two minutes in, the fleet-footed Paris Saint-Germain forward cut in to meet an enticing through ball from midfield and force Ryan into action at his near post.

Mbappe won a free kick 25 yards out after a challenge from behind but Paul Pogba’s curling effort over the wall was straight to Ryan.

Deschamps had warned of the improvement Australia have made under Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, who took over from Ange Postecoglou in January.

But Australia spent most of the first half defending and ultimately frustrating France, rarely creating real chances of their own.

The real drama, however, unfolded after the interval with the VAR decision. – Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -