France v Ukraine –
Final Score/Result: France 3-0 Ukraine
Man Of The Match: Mamadou Sakho
After conceding two goals in the first leg in Ukraine, most of the fans in the country had given up on their side to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next year. But Didier Deschamps made a lot of changes to the side in this match and the players responded with a wonderful performance. Ukraine were without two of their first choice defenders in this match due to suspension and that showed in the game.
France came out flying off the blocks as the home side looked to pull back the deficit. Pogba missed an early chance with a header from a corner, while Benzema al failed to head the target with his header as another opportunity arrived from a free-kick. Ukraine were looking shaky while defending set pieces and the home side finally made them pay as Mamadou Sakho scored the opening goal from another set-piece.
Ukraine failed to clear the free-kick and the ball reached Ribery at the edge of the box. The Bayern Munich winger’s low drive was saved by Pyatov, but Sakho was in perfect position to score from the rebound. France needed that early goal to get their confidence high and they dominated the match from that point.
Just seven minutes after this goal France once again had the ball at the back of the net as Karim Benzema turned in Ribery low cross from the left, but the lines-man wrongly called him offside and the gaol was disallowed. But just five minutes later Benzema did have his goal and this time the linesman helped him out as well. A weak attempt from outside the box reached Benzema through Valbuena, and he scored from close range. But the replay showed that the Real Madrid striker was clearly in an offside position.
Yarmolenko had a good opportunity to pull one back for the visitors right at the stroke of half-time. His wonderful turn and shot from a corner had beaten Lloris, but Newcastle United right back Debuchy blocked it off the line.
At the start of the second half Ukraine received a heavy blow as Yevhen Kacheridi, who was booked just before the half-time, received his second yellow card of the match after diving in a challenge and fouling Ribery. Ukraine had to play the whole of second half with 10-men and their hopes of getting something out of this game was virtually over at that point.
But France still required one more goal to secure their qualification in normal time. That goal did arrive in the 72nd minute of the match. Patrice Evra’s low drive from outside the box was parried away by Pyatov and Ribery’s follow up shot was going wide before Sakho somehow managed to turn it towards goal with his knee. That goal brought a big relief for the home side and fans in Stade de France erupted in joy.
Didier Deschamps expressed his delight in the post-match conference at having secured a place in Brazil after conceding a big lead in the first leg. He was delighted with his team’s performance and insisted that this side can achieve ‘great things’.
“Four days ago, we were in a bad position but the players were fantastic tonight.
“I didn’t have doubts but we played a huge match and this qualification is very important for French football.
“It’s a bit of a tradition that when French teams have their backs against the wall, they perform and we had a lot of heart and determination today.
“Now we’ve qualified, we’re capable of some great things.” – The France manager told the press.
France v Ukraine – Statistics
Mamadou Sakho produced a wonderful performance at the back for France in this game. The Liverpool defender didn’t feature in the first leg as Deschamps preferred the pairing of Koscielny and Abidal, but he has now perhaps secured his place in the starting line-up with this performance. He was solid defensively and scored two important goals that secured their qualification for the World Cup.