France ponder offensive options, Australia shore up defense

Socceroos

Australia's Mile Jedinak, center, speaks with his teammates after the group C match between France and Australia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia, Saturday, June 16, 2018.

Until Risdon's foul on Griezmann, Australia's defenders had been superb, making sure the French strikers did not get too many balls.

Referee Andres Cunha, though, simply checked the goal-line monitor on his watch and pointed to the centre circle as Australia keeper Mat Ryan stood appealing with the ball in his hands.

"He was standing very close to the moment of the penalty, and he said directly, "Go (play) on".

"Luckily for us the system was there", Griezmann said.

The lead didn't last long because just four minutes later Alfred Finnbogason pounced to tie the game and record Iceland's first ever World Cup goal. They had been working very hard before the start of the tournament on their shape and their tactics, and it showed on Saturday.

In defense, full back Djibril Sidibe might still be with the squad but his knee injury means he is highly unlikely to play with Benjamin Pavard stepping up to occupy the right flank outside Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti.

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Denmark were the more adventurous of the two sides after half time, and their shift in strategy was awarded when Yussuf Poulsen scored the only goal of the game in the 59th minute.

If Didier Deschamps was looking for answers to his tactical headaches, he certainly didn't find any during France's World Cup opener. Deschamps got it wrong and tried to rectify it with 20 minutes to go by taking off Griezmann and Dembele for Nabil Fekir and Olivier Giroud.

A sharp first-half save from captain Hugo Lloris prevented Australia from going ahead through a Corentin Tolisso own goal, and the Spurs keeper warned that France must do better.

"We had an enormous amount of fans and it was sad they came so far to see us lose, they deserved at least a draw", said Peru coach Ricardo Gareca.

Both teams now have several days to prepare for the next matches. I would rather play badly and win this game than play well and not win it.

Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien.

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