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Two pens and Pogba: France nips Australia as VAR debuts

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  • France goals: Griezmann (58′), Pogba (80′)
  • Australia goal: Jedinak (62′)
  • Next: Australia-Denmark, France-Peru

Two penalties and an own goal was not how France and Australia wanted their World Cup openers to go, but Les Bleus will take the 2-1 result on Saturday in Kazan.

Aziz Behich’s possible own goal was prodded by Paul Pogba, while Antoine Griezmann scored a PK awarded via Video Assistant Referee and Australia’s Mile Jedinak also buried a penalty.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Australia came close to a surprise lead off a 19th minute free kick, as Hugo Lloris had to act quickly to slap Corentin Tolisso’s potential own goal away from the France frame.

The first half hour largely belonged to France despite the Socceroos clear desire to disrupt the flow of the match with physical play.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

It didn’t take long into the second half for the World Cup to turn in its VAR card, with Antoine Griezmann’s controversially-won penalty given via video.

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[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The Socceroos earned their chance to level when Aaron Mooy‘s free kick was handled by Samuel Umtiti in the box.

Jedinak’s converted penalty was Australia’s first shot on target of the match, and came from a player who was questionable to participate in the opener thanks to an injury.

The video helped Pogba prod the winning, or losing, goal out of Behich with the ball turning off the cross bar and just crossing the line with 10 minutes to play.

LIVE: World Cup, Day 3 — Four matches include Messi debut

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Get planning for Day 3 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with four games on the docket!

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Lionel Messi will make his 2018 World Cup debut on the heels of old pal Cristiano Ronaldo’s Friday hat trick against Spain.

And tournament favorites France also take their first strides in Russia with a match against Australia.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 16

Group C
France v Australia: Kazan, 6 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Peru v Denmark: Saransk, Noon ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina v Iceland: Moscow, 9 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Croatia v Nigeria: Kaliningrad, 3 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

World Cup, Group C preview: France, Australia, Denmark, Peru

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France: Following a slim quarterfinal loss to Germany in the 2014 tournament, France looks to take the next step behind one of the deepest squads in the world. Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba are among those pushing the attack while N'Golo Kante helps anything coming back the other way. Favorites to win the group comfortably, and perhaps the World Cup as well. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

Australia: Solid in midfield with Aaron Mooy and Mile Jedinak and dangerous enough in attack, can the Socceroos limit the danger coming the way of star keeper Mat Ryan of Brighton and Hove Albion? If they do, perhaps a surprising run to second is possible. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Peru: Their captain’s suspension overturned, one of the most anonymous Top Ten teams in recent memory (Elo Ratings) looks to make a major statement in its first World Cup since the 1970s. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

Denmark: Christian Eriksen is the unquestioned focal point of the Danish team, and will enter the tournament with hopes of results against Peru and Australia which deem the finale versus France dead rubber. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


Who’s going through: France and Peru.

 [ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Who’s going home: Denmark and Australia.

Marquee match: France versus Peru, June 21 in Yekaterinburg

Top 5 players to watch
1) N’Golo Kante — France
2) Antoine Griezmann — France
3) Paul Pogba — France
4) Christian Eriksen — Denmark
5) Samuel Umtiti — France

Saturday int’l friendly previews: Denmark vs. Mexico, Hungary vs. Australia

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World Cup squads continue to warm up with just a week to go before the big dance, and there is another full slate of games on Saturday.

France hosts the United States as Didier Deschamps’ squad faces its final test before departing to Russia, while the USMNT has its last of a three-game international break that’s seen a number of young faces get invaluable playing time. Check out the full preview of France vs. United States here.

Elsewhere in the world…

Denmark vs. Mexico

Both these teams have aspirations of reaching the knockout stage, so this should be quite a good test for both teams as to where they stand heading into the tournament. Denmark will need to beat Peru in group stage play, a team that plays a relatively similar style to Mexico. El Tri, meanwhile, has two European sides in its group in the form of Germany and Sweden.

More is riding on this match for Denmark, as they have truly struggled to score of late. In their last five matches, they’ve scored three goals, including a pair of 0-0 draws their last two times out. With nobody else to support Christian Eriksen, it’s been relatively simple for opposing teams to lock down the creative force. Can Age Haride figure out how to give his talisman some help?

Mexico, meanwhile, is incredible defensive form. El Tri has conceded just a single goal over five matches in the 2018 calendar year. It hasn’t been terribly pretty up front, but it’s not exactly cause for alarm just yet.

Hungary vs. Australia

Australia downed a struggling Czech Republic 4-0 last time out, and the Socceroos would head into the World Cup with a serious barrel of confidence if they can achieve a similar result against Hungary. 27-year-old Matthew Leckie scored a pair in that win, and the Hertha winger will prove an important piece to any potential Australia success.

It’s the opposite across the field, where Hungary comes into their final tuneup with just three wins to eight losses in 12 matches since the start of the 2017 calendar year. They’ve dropped game to Kazakhstan and Scotland so far in 2018, most recently playing to a 1-1 draw against lowly Belarus. Manager Georges Leekens has yet to pick up a win since taking over in November, and things aren’t looking up for the National Eleven.

Sweden vs. Peru

Peru is one of the more intriguing sides in the entire 2018 World Cup, and a win over fellow participant Sweden would be a stellar sendoff to the big dance. With captain Paolo Guerrera back in action and needing minutes, look for him to at least make an appearance for the South American side.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup dark horses ]

Sweden, however, has won just once since topping Italy in their UEFA qualification playoff match. A drab scroeless draw with Denmark did little to quiet the doubters heading into the World Cup, and staring down a tough group with Mexico, Germany, and South Korea, a win over Peru would go a long way towards renewing confidence in the side.

Serbia vs. Bolivia

The Serbian squad desperately needs playing time together, and these 90 minutes will be as important as any. Manager Mladen Krstajic has brought in a number of talented players who haven’t spent much time on the pitch together, and while there’s plenty of excitement surrounding striker Aleksandr Mitrovic, midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and winger Adem Ljajic, the trio have very little game time together in the past few years due to the banishment of the latter pair under previous management.

[ MORE: Serbia World Cup preview ]

SMS in particular has just three caps to his name despite a heaping of potential, and has played just 45 minutes of national team time in 2018. Look for him to see his first full 90 minutes since his international debut in early November.

Tunisia vs. Spain

With Germany sputtering to a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia today, Spain will want to bounce back from a shaky 90 minutes of their own as they visit Tunisia. A first-choice Spain squad drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their last match on Sunday, where they held 65% and popped off 18 shots but managed just a single goal. The top teams aren’t exactly convincing in the last few weeks, but that could be down to experimentation more than anything else.

Israel vs. Argentina

Argentina’s last two years have been a roller coaster ride, there’s no debating. In their last four matches alone, they’ve demolished Haiti 4-0 and passed Italy 2-0, but also lost to Nigeria 4-2 and were stomped by Spain 6-1. A comprehensive and convincing win over Israel would be a good way to enter World Cup play, but there’s no skirting around the fact that Argentina is more of a wild card in the 2018 tournament than they have been in quite some time. Will manager Jorge Sampaoli haul out a strong starting eleven against Israel, or will he rest the starters and put health above all else? He has a lot to sort out, that’s for sure.

2018 World Cup team preview: Australia

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Getting to know Australia: The Socceroos will bring plenty of fans and excitement to the World Cup tournament, as always, and they will be aiming to reach the knockout rounds for just the second time in their history. Since they made their World Cup debut in 2006 they’ve been ever present.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Yet Australia’s status as an emerging force in world soccer has taken a bit of a hit recently as they struggled to qualify for this tournament as they edged by Syria in their AFC playoff, then Honduras in the intercontinental playoff. Still, they made it and you can expect to hear plenty of chants of “Aussie, aussie, aussie! Oi, oi, oi!” across Russia. For more on Australia’s history, click this link.

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What group are they in? Group C with France, Peru and Denmark. Yet again, a really tough group for Australia to navigate. But if they can frustrate France and get a point from their opening game then their second group game against Denmark basically becomes a knockout encounter.


Game schedule – Group C – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Saturday, June 16: France v Australia, Kazan 6am, ET
Thursday, June 21: Denmark v Australia, Samara 8am, ET
Tuesday, June 26: Australia v Peru, Sochi 10am, ET


Projected lineup (4-2-3-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Ryan —–

— Risdon — Milligan — Sainsbury — Behich —-

—- Mooy —- Jedinak —-

—- Leckie —- Rogic —- Kruse —–

—– Juric —–


Star player: Aaron Mooy – The Huddersfield Town midfielder makes the Socceroos tick and they will give him the ball as much as possible in central midfield. Mooy had a superb season for Huddersfield and was one of the main reasons they stayed up in the Premier League. Australia will look to give him the ball and get him involved in set piece situations wherever possible.


Manager: Bert van Marwijk – After leading Saudi Arabia to World Cup qualification rather comfortably, the Dutch coach parted company. It didn’t take him long to land with another Asian Confederation (AFC) powerhouse as Australia’s coach Ange Postecoglou walked out after guiding the Socceroos through two playoffs to make the 2018 World Cup. Van Marwijk is a good man manager and will set this team up to be tough to beat defensively and hit teams on the counter and from set piece situations. That suits this group of players extremely well as their former coach Postecoglou was lambasted for that style of play but, after all, it got them to the World Cup. Van Marwijk is only in charge of Australia until the end of this World Cup as Graham Arnold will then take over.


Secret weapon: Tim Cahill – It is no secret that Cahill is still lurking around but he is such a great player to have on the bench in a tight game or if you need a goal late in the game. Cahill has played at the past three World Cups for Australia (scoring in all three) and his goals were crucial in qualifying, even at the age of 38. You can just see Cahill jumping off the bench late on against Peru to score a header which could take Australia into the Round of 16. Surely Cahill’s legend has one more chapter before he calls it quits…

p.s. keep an eye on Daniel Arzani, just 19, who is the youngster player at the World Cup and is a talented playmaker for Melbourne City.

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Prediction: Getting out of this group will be tough for the Socceroos but they always seem to do better than we expect. Yet again they’ve been handed a tough group but you get the sense it will go down to the wire to make the last 16. It seems like Denmark will have a little too much for them and Australia will probably bow out at the group stage for the third-straight World Cup.