The play-offs for a spot at the FIFA World Cup next summer were revealed-Ukraine were to play the French. France were in the World Cup, they said, it would be a walk in the park, they said. However, a major doubt now looms over whether the likes of Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Hugo Lloris and Giroud will be playing in Brazil next summer or not, and if they do end up making it, it certainly would not have been easy for Les Bleus.
A 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Kiev gives Didier Deschamps’ men a daunting task ahead of the second leg in Paris this Tuesday. The Ukrainians dictated play for much of the match, and after 61 minutes, it was Roman Zozulya who gave Ukraine the lead when his effort just squirmed under Lloris and over the line to delight the home crowd at the Olympic Stadium.
With 83 minutes gone and with France looking to get an equaliser to make their task a bit easier, Arsenal Center Back Laurent Koscielny was ruled to have bundled over Zozulya in the area, and the referee pointed to the spot. Andriy Yarmolenko converted from 12 yards out to complete Ukraine’s surprise 2-0 win over the much favoured French team.
The match also saw two players from each team dismissed, Koscielny seeing red for an off-ball fracas with Kucher, and Kucher himself was also sent off a few minutes later for a bookable offence.
France were far from terrible in this game, but they were also far from great, and they now leave themselves with a mountain to climb if they want to go to Brazil next Summer.
France have generally been poor ever since Zinedine Zidane’s retirement in 2006, and have underachieved. Their squad is capable of doing much better than they have been doing, and if they fail to show up at next summer’s big tournament, it will surely seal their status as one of the biggest underachievers in modern football. People would be happy for Ukraine if they manage to finish off this upset next Tuesday and book tickets to Brazil, but for hardcore football fans that want as great as possible World Cup next year, they’d surely be hoping Les Bleus can make a comeback here.
No disrespect to the Ukrainians, but they aren’t exactly known for playing the most beautiful, attacking, entertaining football there is out there, and obviously, France will challenge better at the World Cup than Ukraine. Ukraine will be lucky to even qualify for the Round of 16 of the World Cup, depending on their group of course, whereas France will more than likely make a Quarter Final at the very least, if they play to their potential, and they will pose a serious threat to any team at the tournament.
Ukraine have outplayed France and go to Paris with a 2-0 cushion ahead of the second leg, but they aren’t in just yet, and neither are France out as yet. There is still 90 minutes minimum of football to be played, and this is football, so kick back in your seats, put your feet up, and enjoy the second leg, coming Tuesday 19th at 8 PM GMT-1.