17’ Australia Goes Close!
Against all momentum, it’s Australia that nearly scores first: a cross, a header, a stray French foot. But Lloris dives to his left to parry it away in front of Sainsburg, who was there to pounce on any mistake. That would have really been something.
13’ Australia’s Leckie Gets a Yellow
Mooy swings in a hard-diving cross, but France clears. And back we go. Leckie is a step late on Lucas, and he picks up the game’s first yellow.
And sets up another France free kick. Its cleared, but only for a corner.
11’ Australia Settled a Little
Australia gets a small stretch of possession, soothing Aussie nerves a bit, but every loose touch leads to a turnover, and to France charging back at them again. Now they’ve won a free kick out on the left, and it’s France who will have to defend it.
6’ Griezmann Now …
Another chance for France, as Griezmann gets a look up high, but Ryan is there again. Two minutes later he gets a header on a free kick. Ryan is there to catch it on the bounce.
Sensing a theme yet?
5’ Pogba’s First Chance
A foul on Mbappé sets up a Pogba free kick from 25 yards or so out top. His shot clears the wall, but hits Ryan right in the mitts.
3’ Danger From Mbappé
Australia’s first scare comes in the form of Mbappé breaking down the right and firing a shot from a tight angle that Ryan does well to push around the post. The Socceroos will want to limit looks like that.
Kickoff in Kazan
Here we go. Australia in head-to-toe yellow, France in blue tops with white shorts. Enjoy.
Bold Move From Deschamps?
More from Chris in Kazan:
Bold move from Didier Deschamps to embrace the youth movement to this degree. Among those on the bench for France’s first World Cup game are :
• Olivier Giroud, 31, who is the current team’s leading scorer and tied with Zinedine Zidane for fourth on France’s all-time list with 31 goals.
• Blaise Matuidi, 31, one of their key figures in midfield in the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros.
• Benjamin Mendy, 23, the Manchester City wing back widely considered one of the best in the world at his position.
A Full Day Ahead
France-Australia is the first of four games today. The matches kick off three hours apart, so make sure you hydrate and eat between in the brief windows between them, because you’ll probably want to at least sample them all. Rory Smith of The Times is at the next one (Argentina-Iceland in Moscow, 9 a.m. ET). Then Tariq Panja will check in from Peru-Denmark in Saransk (noon, ET). The nightcap could be the best of the bunch: Nigeria-Croatia in Kaliningrad (3 p.m. ET).
Chris Clarey: Big turnout here in Kazan from the Aussie fans, most of whom have come a long way. A small sea of green and gold fills up several blocks of seats in the lower tier of this charming stadium.
Mbappé Starts at Age 19
Kylian Mbappé, by the way, becomes the youngest player to represent France at the World Cup, at 19 years and 178 days. He’s a long way from Bondy.
From Chris Clarey in Kazan: The French team that will start against Australia — at an average of 24 years 6 months — is, according to the French newspaper L’Equipe, the youngest French team to start a World Cup since the 1930 edition, which was the first.
The Lineups Are Out
France goes with the one that L’Equipe had reported the other day (funny how that works): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Kanté, Tolisso, Pogba; Mbappé, Griezmann, Dembélé.
Australia, as one might imagine, brings considerably less stardust to the opener, though Aaron Mooy and Mile Jedinak should be familiar to casual watchers of England’s Premier League.
France vs. Australia Top Story Lines
• France and Australia are kicking off play in Group C. Peru and Denmark fill out the group; they meet in Saransk later Saturday.
• France reached the final of the European Championships on home soil two years ago, falling to Portugal in the final. The defeat, amid high expectations, has become a recurring theme for France since it won the 1998 World Cup. Most of the current team grew up on that achievement, and this may be France’s best chance in years to match it.
• This could be the tournament in which one, or both, of Pogba and Kylian Mbappé establish themselves as truly global stars.
• “We can’t afford to get stage fright,” France Coach Didier Deschamps said. “I want the players to be relaxed and concentrated. Their objective is drawing near. They have to seize the day.”
• Australia was one of several teams who cycled through coaches on its way to the World Cup. The man who was on the bench when the Socceroos clinched, Ange Postecoglou, quit after qualifying. He was replaced early this year by Bert van Marwijk, a Dutchman who led the Netherlands to the 2010 final against Spain. Van Marwijk’s style then, to the dismay of fans accustomed to the elegant play for which the Netherlands was long known, was a bit more hard-edged than usual from the Oranje.
• As Rory Smith wrote in our preview, “The appointment of van Marwijk speaks volumes: Australia does not have a rich pool of talented players, so it will rely instead on organization, industriousness and Tim Cahill’s head.” Maybe not today though; Cahill starts on the bench against France.
• Australia seems to have a soft spot for Dutch coaches: van Marwijk is the third one to lead the Socceroos at the World Cup. Guus Hiddink reached the Round of 16 in 2006, and Pim Verbeek managed the team four years later in South Africa.
Some Pregame Reading
• If you haven’t read it, Rory Smith’s piece on the suburbs and satellite towns around Paris that have produced a chunk of the French team, “The Boys From the Banlieues,” is excellent. (But then we’re biased.).
• Griezmann announced this week that he was staying at his Spanish club, Atlético Madrid, but the video he made to announce his decision raised some eyebrows.
• If it’s the World Cup and Australia has qualified, then 38-year-old Tim Cahill must be here.
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