Griezmann hits historic VAR penalty as France squeeze past Australia

France's midfielder Paul Pogba (R) reacts as Australia's goalkeeper Mathew Ryan (L) catches the loose ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Australia at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 16, 2018.
France's midfielder Paul Pogba (R) reacts as Australia's goalkeeper Mathew Ryan (L) catches the loose ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Australia at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 16, 2018.
Image: AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

Antoine Griezmann scored the first VAR-assisted penalty awarded in the history of the World Cup as title hopefuls France battled to a 2-1 win over gutsy Australia in Kazan 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 penalty box in the second half of the Group C fixture.

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.

“It’s a good job there was video in this case,” Griezmann told BeIN Sport TV.

“I think it was a penalty, he caught me on the left foot. Just after I got up, it was hurting a bit. That’s not simulation.”

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 gutsy 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.

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.

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