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WORLD CUP

Pogba gifts 2-1 win to France against Australia in World Cup opener

Saeed Khan, AFP | France's midfielder Paul Pogba (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Australia at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 16, 2018.

Paul Pogba scored a late goal to earn France a hard-fought 2-1 win against Australia as the Video Assistant Referee system was used for the first time in World Cup history in their opening Group C game on Saturday.

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Midfielder Pogba, who was criticised after recent below-par performances, found the back of the net with a lob after a fine one-two with second-half substitute Olivier Giroud nine minutes from time.

The Group C match in Kazan was goalless when Antoine Griezmann went down after a tackle in the second half. Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha did not award a penalty but after viewing the VAR footage, ruled it was a spot-kick and Griezmann gave France a 1-0 lead.

Minutes later the Socceroos drew level through a penalty of their own, although this time it was awarded by the referee, with Mile Jedinak coolly beating Hugo Lloris.

But Paul Pogba won a tight match for the 1998 champions when his shot bounced over the line off the crossbar in the 81st minute. There is the possibility that the goal might not have counted in the days before the new VAR technology, with the shot looping off the shin of Aziz Behich, hitting the crossbar and bouncing down inside the goal before coming back out.

France favourites

France were always heavily tipped to beat the 'Socceroos' -- having thumped Australia 6-0 at their last international friendly in 2013 – but Deschamps nonetheless underlined the positive changes made to the Australian team by respected coach Bert van Marwijk.

The Dutchman, who steered the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final and a 1-0 defeat to Spain, took the helm of the Socceroos in January.

"The players are the same and of course it's the team that plays the match. But we won't see Australia punting long balls up the field.” warned Deschamps.

Despite the improved Australian side, France won their key opening game, undoubtedly giving the team confidence for their next Group C game against Peru.

Peru take on Denmark in the other Group C match at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk later on Saturday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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