In the end, it wasn’t to be.
A penalty, via the Video Assistant Referee, and an 81st minute Paul Pogba deflected strike, via Goal Line Technology, was the difference between the Socceroos and France.
Mile Jedinak had struck a second half penalty to level the scores at 1-1, just four minutes after Antoine Griezmann gave France a lead.
Yet despite the 2-1 defeat, there were two key positives for Bert van Marwijk’s team to be take away and bring great hope into the upcoming challenges of Denmark and Peru at the FIFA World Cup™.
“No one expected we could play like this against France but I think there were a lot of moments when [France] didn’t know what to do anymore so that’s a big compliment for us,” explained the Dutchman post-game.
So many had expected France to monopolise the ball and force Australia deep for long spells of the game. Instead, the Socceroos ended the match with 45 percent of the ball.
This was a telling trend, where France’s reactive defensive approach allowed the Aussies to recover and regain a foothold after surviving a 10-minute onslaught where Mat Ryan was forced into save after save.
But once the Socceroos were able to get their foot on the ball, France – as is their approach no matter the opponent – dropped towards the half way line and allowed the likes of Trent Sainsbury and Mark Milligan to build attacks from the back.
Sainsbury was able to puncture France’s midfield line, finding Tom Rogic in space on multiple occasions when he drifted into space to the side of N’Golo Kante as the ball was switched.
This was a major improvement from previous matches where van Marwijk had flagged Australia’s inability to get Rogic into the game as a concern.
“Tom Rogic has been in good positions and we’ve looked good when we get the ball to him but we need to keep playing a short passing game and in transition we have to get into shape quicker when we lose the ball,” explained Socceroos assistant coach Ante Milicic at half time.
That transition moment proved to go against Australia in the second half when France sprung from deep to find Griezmann in the box, where he was adjudged to be fouled by Josh Risdon on review.
The penalty, and France’s eventual winner – with Aziz Behich deflecting Pogba’s prod which looped over Ryan and in off the underside of the crossbar – was a cruel outcome for a Socceroos side which had done so much to prove wrong the pre-game assumptions.
There would be no humiliating score line, instead a result that even some neutrals will argue could have ended in a draw.
There would also be no complete and utter dominance from a France team littered with individual talent.
Instead, van Marwijk’s side – as he had promised – delivered up a performance where the collective nearly undid the more fancied opposition.