It's VAR! Australian Dream alive as World Cup turns into festival of penalties

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The Socceroos rescued a draw with a controversial penalty call as the number of spot-kicks in the 2018 World Cup continues to soar

"VAR, VAR, VAR" rang through the stadium, half-ironically from Australia fans, as Mathew Leckie's header struck the outstretched hand of Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen in the closing minutes of the first half.

The incident was reviewed by the Moscow based Video Assistant Referees, and the officials from the USA, Canada and Italy gave head referee Mateu Lahoz the signal to stop the game to review the footage himself at pitch-side.

He then awarded a penalty that Mile Jedinak tucked away past Kasper Schmeichel to level the scores at 1-1 following Christian Eriksen’s excellent volleyed opener.

The introduction of VAR has led to a spike in penalties at this tournament with 11 already awarded just seven days since the opening game. This is just two less than the number given in the entirety of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Until their equaliser, Australia had looked pretty toothless up front but they rallied after the VAR decision and could have even won the game, with Aaron Mooy inches away from scoring a second with a powerful shot.

As it stands, the Socceroos still have a chance of qualifying for the knockouts if they can beat Peru in the final game and hope the other result in the group involving  France and Denmark goes their way.

If they can achieve that, huge credit would have to go to Bert Van Marwijk given his team was in turmoil just a few months ago, made up of a group of players who are either from unfashionable club teams, are ageing or who have yet to establish themselves at the top level.

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His squad are nowhere near at the level of the 2006 class who historically made it to the last 16 only to lose to Italy with another controversial penalty.

Van Marwijk's side have played to their absolute maximum in this tournament, backed by a huge contingent of Aussie fans in Russia, and they finally have their first point on the board having been so unlucky to lose 2-1 to France on matchday one.

The Australian Dream is still alive as it continues to rain penalties in Russia.

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