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Analysis: French pressure breaks Australian resilience

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Kazan: Australia battled hard and defended well but were eventually beaten 2-1 by France through a spot-kick and a deflected shot.

France's Antoine Griezmann and Australia's Trent Sainsbury in a race for the ball.

Several weeks of preparations were over, and it was time for Bert van Marwijk's Australia side to demonstrate their worth as they opened their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign against France. A resilient defensive display was on show but two second-half strikes were enough for Les Blues to walk away with the three points.

Having scored three goals in as many matches in their last FIFA World Cup, the Socceroos opened their account courtesy of a Mile Jedinak penalty kick, but more attacking impetus will be required if they are to advance to the next round.

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Socceroos keep it tight at the back

Defending against three of the world’s finest forwards in Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mpabbe and Ousmane Dembele, Australia’s centre-back pair Mark Milligan and Trent Sainsbury put in an impressive performance, keeping the French attack at bay for the majority of the match.

Only a penalty kick conceded by right-back Josh Risdon allowed France to open the scoring in the second half before Paul Pogba sealed the win for France 10 minutes from time after Mile Jedinak had equalised for the Socceroos.

The defensive duo sat deep to defend their territory, tightening the space for their opponents as Sainsbury made eight defensive clearances, while his partner Milligan made one more, including five inside his own penalty box.

Forward Frailties

While van Marwijk’s men were commendable defensively, they offered very little going forward. Striker Andrew Nabbout mustered a single touch inside the French penalty box and no shots, while his replacement Tomi Juric fared no better, failing to add to his teammates’ attacking product.

Right winger Matthew Leckie attempted three of the Socceroos’ five shots on the afternoon (excluding the goal), while the other two attempts came from full-backs Aziz Behich and Risdon who tried their luck from distance.

With no shots on target from open play all game, and a dearth of presence inside the opposition box, the reigning Asian champions can count themselves fortunate to have scored a goal, but will have to do more if they are to overcome Denmark and Peru in their remaining group matches.

Midfield duo play narrow

Skipper Jedinak scored Australia’s equaliser from the spot, but his main contribution throughout the 90 minutes was in shielding the back-four. The 33-year-old dominated in the defensive third to filter out many promising French moves.

Jedinak’s central-midfield partner Aaron Mooy was deployed in a deeper role than his usual position at club level, and he excelled in balancing his defensive and attacking responsibilities, completing more passes (47) than any other Socceroos player apart from Milligan (66).

The Jedinak-Mooy combination proved solid for van Marwijk’s side as the pair played close to each other in central areas, always offering each other an outlet to play the ball out from the back with as little risk as possible.

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