Paul Pogba’s late goal broke Australian resistance as France started with a win in Group C and history was made with the World Cup’s first VAR goal.
The video assistant referee penalised Australia’s Josh Risdon for a sliding challenge on Antoine Griezmann, allowing the Atletico Madrid forward to dispatch a penalty, the first World Cup goal influenced by VAR.
However, a moment of madness from French defender Samuel Umtiti, who handled Aaron Mooy’s free-kick, enabled Australia to equalise through Mile Jedinak’s penalty in Kazan.
And they looked on course to hold one of the pre-tournament favourites until Pogba’s lobbed effort deflected off Australia full-back Aziz Behich and the crossbar to fall inches over the goal-line.
Amid the large clusters of gold provided by around 10,000 Socceroos supporters, France initially assumed control of this Group C opener despite the long journey from their Moscow training base.
Kylian Mbappe sparkled early on, racing beyond the Australia backline to test goalkeeper Mat Ryan after 93 seconds.
That sparked a concerted offensive by Didier Deschamps’ team but Australia stemmed the tide as the half progressed.
Going behind stirred Australia into a response in the second period and Aston Villa’s Jedinak converted a penalty after Umtiti had senselessly handled another dangerous Mooy delivery.
But Pogba’s winner, confirmed by goal-line technology, ensured France opened the tournament with three points.
Peru face Denmark in Saturday’s other Group C match from 17:00 BST.
Technology provided the talking points in an otherwise flat encounter that failed to inspire.
In a frenetic four minutes during the second half, which was totally out of keeping with the rest of the game, VAR was used twice to influence goals.
Risdon was the first player to be adversely affected with a penalty awarded a minute after the Australia full-back appeared to touch the ball onto Griezmann before the striker went down.
Bert van Marwijk’s side then received a penalty of their own, with Umtiti’s handball confirmed by Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha after it had been checked on VAR.
To round off proceedings, Pogba’s lobbed winner was given by goal-line technology, with Australian goalkeeper Ryan pleading to play on.
France fail to fire
While all the pre-match talk was of France’s much vaunted front three, Ousmane Dembele, Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe were largely ineffective.
Mbappe – the youngest Frenchman to play in a major tournament at 19 years and six months – offered the most danger but was contained by a well-drilled Australian defence, coupled with a plodding French midfield.
Griezmann did score from the penalty spot, but he looked a shadow of the player who scored seven times and provided two assists in his past two major tournaments.
Both he and Dembele were withdrawn after 70 minutes after largely anonymous displays.
Olivier Giroud, Griezmann’s replacement, struggled to get involved but he crucially laid the ball into Pogba, advancing from midfield, for the winning goal.
More to follow.