France’s football team kick-started their campaign in 2018 World Cup with a hard-fought win over Australia, while Iceland succeeded in equalizing score against one of FIFA World Cup favorites, Argentina.
Denmark also beat Peru 1-0 and Croatia cruised to a 2-0 victory against Nigeria.
The French got their first three points in the competition by beating Australia 2-1 in Group C in the world’s main soccer event at Kazan Arena.
Paul Pogba broke the 1-1 tie in the 80th minute, enabling the team to escape with a win as the performance was far from convincing.
They fell short of the expectations of their fans against the Australians who, in fact, performed in a remarkably vigorous mode in spite of the defeat.
Unprecedentedly, the battle saw the first on-field video review in World Cup history. VAR was used for the first time ever in 2018, sending Antoine Grizmann to the penalty spot.
Shortly thereafter, Samuel Umtiti made a bizarre blunder when he needlessly threw his hands up in the air after a cross into the area.
Referee Andres Cunha pointed to the spot again, and Australia captain Mile Jedinak leveled the score in the 62nd minute, forcing the French to show their teeth in the rest of the clash.
Finally, Pogba gave France a lead in the 80th minute, placing the team on top of Group C provisionally.
France Coach Didier Deschamps admitted they had faced an uneasy battle against brave Australia.
Speaking in a televised statement following the match, Deschamps said the win was actually hard-fought bout very significant to the team in next games.
He added the French had tried hard to lead from the very beginning, but the Australians, in fact, showed much resistance, adding that they had had several chances but to no avail.
However, the manager promised that the players would show better performance in the two coming battles in order to secure an easy lead to the next round.
In another match, Iceland came from behind to equalize their opener against Argentina Saturday to end their clash 1-1.
Argentina?’s forward Sergio Aguero capitalized on a shot by Marcos Rojo into the area and smashed the ball into the top corner of the net in minute 19.
But only four minutes later, Iclenad?’s Alfreo Finnbogason diverted a ball across the goal and tapped it comfortably to score his country?’s first ever goal in a World Cup.
Argentina continued to press to score another goal, and their attempts continued in the second half and got a penalty in the 64th minute, but Lionel Messi missed it.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli made three substitutions to enforce the team in a bid to boost the pressure on Iceland.
Each team share one point in their Group which also consists of Croatia and Nigeria.
Argentina’s coach Jorge Sampaoli said he is still confident about the squad’s capabilities.
Speaking at a press conference following the encounter, Sampaoli said Messi did not perform as expected due to Iceland’s completely defensive strategy.
He added that the players had tried hard to find the right way to win the clash but in vein owing to strong resistance from the Icelandic team.
Sampaoli promised that his squad would do their best to win the next two games of the group.
On his part, Iceland’s coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said he was so happy at the team’s performance against Argentina.
He said during the press conference that he was well aware that the rivals would control the match, but, eventually, it was a positive result thanks to the team’s disciplined performance.
The third match saw Denmark earning a tough 1-0 victory over Peru in the first match of the two teams in the World Cup.
Denmark’s sole goal was scored by Yussuf Poulsen in 59 minute of the match, which was held at Saransk city.
Peru did a great job in the first half and even missed a penalty on the brink of half-time, when Christian Cueva sent the ball over the post.
Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made many saves that prevented the Peruvians from levelling the score.
Denmark and France are leading Group C. France beat Australia 2-1 earlier in the day.
In the last match of the day, Croatia realized a satisfying win over Nigeria with a 2-0 score at the end of 90-minute game, while Nigeria certainly lacked a cutting edge during the match.
Oghenekaro Etebo deflects Mario Mandzukic’s header into his own goal in the 32nd minute to give Croatia the lead in the first half.
The Second goal came in the 71st minute when Croatia where granted a penalty taken by their captain Luka Modric to secure the second goal.
Nigeria clearly not playing to their full potential as they dragged themselves in to the second half failing to create more clear cut chances and making them count.
Croatia leads group D with a much better beginning than Brazil 2014 World Cup, where they suffered a 3-1 defeat to the hosts.
Croatia’s midfielder Ivan Rakitic said Saturday the match against Nigeria was “difficult,” but his team deserved the 2-0 win over the African nation.
Speaking to press following the Group D clash, Rakitic “it was a difficult match and we have high respect for Nigeria.
“We deserve the three points and it is important to start (the World Cup) with three points,” he said.
The croats cruised their way past the Nigerians who were not convincing throughout the match.
“We realize we need to stick together to win this game,” said Rakitic.
Nigeria’s goalkeeper Fracis Uzoho said the team was not very bad but “two mistakes cost us two goals.” Uzoho is the second most youngest player in any World Cup.
“This is my first World Cup, but I am happy to defend my goal,” he said.
Nigeria Coach Gernot Rohr expressed disappointment at the loss.
“Croatia were the better team. We could have come back into it in the second half after we started very well before the penalty against us. We’re a young team, we’re learning and I hope in the next game against Iceland we will do much better,” he said.
Source: Kuwait News Agency