Wake up each morning to The West Australian’s World Cup Wrap, bringing you a roundup of matches, goals and key talking points from all the night’s action.
Shockeroos – ecstasy gives way to Aussie agony
For a fleeting moment it looked like Australia would shock the world – but France’s quality proved too much as they ran out 4-1 winners.
Craig Goodwin hit home Matthew Leckie’s perfect cross to give Australia a 1-0 lead against the defending champions and for 15 minutes it looked like an unlikely upset was brewing.
But then France took possession of the ball and began to exert their will on the game, punishing the Socceroos’ fouls to take the lead before half-time through Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud.
The Blues were irresistible going forward, with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Theo Hernandez playing alongside the Socceroos defenders.
Australia sat deep, their promising start just a second-half memory as they invited the pressure, and France were only too happy to oblige.
Mbappe made it 3-1 after weaving his way between the two Australian centre-backs, and the young star turned provider soon after by giving Giroud a fourth – the former Arsenal striker’s 51st goal for Les Blues, equaling Thierry Henry’s record.
For the French, this proved too easy; for Australia, it was a disaster.
Saudis come from behind to stun Argentina
It was billed as one of the easiest bets in the first round of fixtures – an Argentina win over Saudi Arabia looked almost a given.
After Lionel Messi coolly converted an early penalty, it seemed even more certain the South Americans would walk around within three points.
And after Argentina dominated the first half and consistently exploited Saudi Arabia’s high defensive line, having three goals ruled out by tight offside calls, it would have taken a brave soul to back the Saudis.
But if there was one word to sum up the Asian side’s performance in the second half, it was indeed ‘brave’ as they scored twice early in the second half and poured in heavily blood, sweat and tears to hold on.
Minutes after the restart, Saleh Al-Shehri punished Argentina’s inability to manage a long ball with a well-shot shot that eluded Emilio Martinez in goal, before the excellent effort and solo strike of Salem Al-Dawsari did give the underdogs a shock lead soon after.
Saudi Arabia sat deep and challenged Argentina to play through them, and when they couldn’t find a way, Argentina resorted to desperate long balls which were gobbled up by a defense organized by goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais and central defender Hassan Altambakti.
Yasir Al Shahrani put his body on the line, suffering a terrible concussion at the end of added time, but Saudi Arabia held on for one of the biggest wins in their history.
Penalty save earns Mexico a point
Perennial World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa found himself up against Polish superstar Robert Lewandowski and avoided a crucial penalty.
This meant that Mexico took a point off a game they were supposed to lose, but otherwise dominated.
The Mexicans had luck after luck in a promising first half where they bombarded Poland, mainly through Hirving Lozano on the left side, throwing test runs and dangerous balls into the box.
But despite all their hard work, the best chance they had was an accident. A long-range effort from Edson Alvarez only hit Henry Martin, who initially tried to dodge the shot but made the late decision to head for the corner.
Ochoa saved Mexico from an unfair defeat when he paralleled to make a superb save low and to his left against Barcelona star Lewandowski just before the hour mark in what was the only aspect significant part of Poland.
That leaves Poland at serious risk of missing out, with a crucial Saturday prime-time clash with Saudi Arabia to come. The Saudis already have three points in the bank and Mexico looked to be doing some damage.
Tunisia snatch a draw in Denmark
Tunisia were supposed to be easy to beat in Group D, but they held off Denmark in a valiant 0-0 draw.
The North Africans looked to be the better side in the opening round, with a long-range shot from Mohamed Drager narrowly deflected and Issam Jebali’s goal ruled out for offside.
The dangerous Jebali continued to cause Denmark problems with his pace and should have given Tunisia an unlikely lead, but was foiled by a superb one-on-one from Kasper Schmeichel.
The Danes, on the other hand, struggled to settle into the game and although they enjoyed more possession, it took them time to build up clear scoring chances.
Andreas Skov Olsen thought he had given Denmark the lead early in the second half but Mikel Damsgaard ventured offside in the build-up, while Christian Eriksen pricked the palms of Aymen Mathlouthi in goal and Andreas Cornelius had kind of headbutted a yard. .
Denmark were awarded a late penalty by VAR despite the ball hitting Yassine Merriah’s hand, leaving the Tunisian fans grateful to celebrate the draw.
- Saudis beat Argentina in stunning upset
- Ochoa in high spirits ahead of Messi test
- Lewandowski off mark as Poles beat Saudis
- Mexico’s Lozano looking forward to Messi meeting but targets Argentina upset
- Saddened Messi: Argentina must trust in us