Aziz Behich’s late own 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, after French defender Samuel Umtiti handled Aaron Mooy’s free-kick, Australia equalised through Mile Jedinak’s penalty in Kazan. Kylian Mbappe sparkled early on, racing beyond the Australia backline to test goalkeeper Mat Ryan after 93 seconds.
Lionel Messi’s bid to win the World Cup got off to a nightmare start as he missed a penalty and his Argentina side were surprisingly held by debutants Iceland. Messi was looking to match the impact his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo has made on the tournament – a sensational hat-trick against Spain on Friday night. But instead of being the hero, Messi was the villain as his second-half spot-kick was easily saved by Hannes Halldorsson with the score at 1-1. Denmark began their World Cup campaign with a hard-fought victory against a Peru side that had earlier missed a penalty. The Danes hit Peru on the counter-attack in the second half with Christian Eriksen releasing Yussuf Poulsen, who had conceded the penalty, and he fired past Pedro Gallese.
Croatia made a winning World Cup start against Nigeria, as Oghenekaro Etebo’s own goal and a Luka Modric penalty decided a poor Group D match in Kaliningrad. Etebo, who joined Stoke City from Portuguese club Feirense for £6.35m on Monday, turned Modric’s first-half corner into his own net after Ante Rebic and Mario Mandzukic had both got touches. Modric then converted a 71st-minute penalty – Croatia’s first shot on target – after William Troost-Ekong had manhandled Mandzukic at a corner. Aleksandar Kolarov scored a spectacular free-kick to give Serbia a deserved victory in their opening World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica. Serbia captain Kolarov – the former Manchester City defender – scored from 25 yards when he curled the ball over the Costa Rica wall.
Pre-tournament favourites Brazil failed to win their opening game of a World Cup for the first time since 1978 as Switzerland earned a valuable draw in Rostov-on-Don. The five-time champions, so often lauded for their flair, failed to sparkle after Philippe Coutinho’s superbly curled opener on 20 minutes. Tite’s side – with Gabriel Jesus and Willian alongside Neymar in a front three – could offer only fleeting moments of fluid play and Steven Zuber’s header from a corner earned the Swiss a deserved point. Defending champions Germany made a disastrous start to their bid to win back-to-back World Cups with a shock defeat by Mexico.
Hirving Lozano’s first-half goal was the difference between the two sides in an enthralling encounter in Moscow, but the surprising result was not the only concern for Germany coach Joachim Low. His disjointed side looked extraordinarily vulnerable on the break even before Javier Hernandez punished them with the pass that set up Lozano to cut inside and fire home. Sweden marked their first appearance in the World Cup for 12 years by beating South Korea thanks to a penalty from captain Andreas Granqvist that was awarded after a video assistant referee (VAR) review. There was a short delay for Kim Min-woo’s foul on Viktor Claesson to be analysed on video and for the referee to point to the spot but it did not affect Granqvist, who sent goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo the wrong way.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium proved too good for World Cup debutants Panama in the opening match in England’s Group G. After a goalless first half, Belgium, ranked third in the world, finally broke Panama’s resistance when Dries Mertens steered in a spectacular volley. Panama, 55th in the rankings, had a chance to snatch an equaliser but Thibaut Courtois was quick off his line to save Michael Murillo’s shot with his legs. Manchester United striker Lukaku made certain of the victory as he scored with a diving header after an exquisite pass from Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne with the outside of his boot. Lukaku then added a third with a chipped finish after a fine through ball from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Harry Kane’s stoppage-time winner ensured England started their World Cup campaign with victory after Tunisia threatened to snatch a point in Volgograd. Kane scored his second goal of the game with a clever header as Gareth Southgate’s side recorded England’s first win in the opening game of a major tournament since they beat Paraguay in the 2006 World Cup. England’s captain gave them the reward they deserved for a brilliant start by turning in the opener in the 11th minute after Tunisia keeper Mouez Hassen, who went off injured in the first half, clawed out John Stones’ header.