Skip to content

World Cup Qualifying Preview: Ukraine v. France

Nov 14, 2013, 2:48 PM EDT

Ribery AP

France travel to Kiev on Friday for the first-leg of their World Cup Qualifying play-off match against Ukraine.

Failing to overcome Spain for top spot in their qualification group Didier Deschamps‘ men now face a difficult Ukraine squad in a hostile location, the Olympic Stadium. France, however, enter the match on a strong run of form, winning their last three matches (against Belarus, Australia and Finland) in convincing style.

Les Blues will be led by Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, who was recently named Best Player in Europe for the 2012-2013 season by UEFA. In an interview on Wednesday Ribery described himself as “fit and healthy” ahead of the match and insisted that France are not taking Ukraine lightly. “For me it’s very important that we qualify. Ukraine are a good team but France have to be in Brazil.”

Another key player for France, striker Karim Benzema, echoed the urgency and seriousness of the play-off. “We will give everything in these two games,” the Real Madrid striker said. “We will qualify, I am sure. There is no choice. At the end, there is the ticket to the World Cup in Brazil – the most beautiful. A World Cup in the land of football.”

A lingering issue for the French, of course, is the poor showing the side gave both on and off the pitch in South Africa 2010. For Ribery, the matches against Ukraine provides a chance for the team to make it up to the fans. “It was difficult for us in 2010 and now we have a chance to make amends.”

From all indications, those amends could be made in front of as many as 2,000 Frenchman scheduled to accompany Les Bleus to Kiev. “There is a relationship that is developing between us and our fans,” said midfielder Rio Mavuba. “They’re behind their team now, and that’s great because we’ll really need them for these two matches.”

Ukraine have also enjoyed good form by taking 13 of a possible 15 points from their last five World Cup Qualifiers. In large part that success has been due to Ukraine’s primary attacking threats, wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, with the former having scored four times in the group stages.

Yet still, most players on the Synyo-Zhovti recognize they are the underdogs in this play-off. “Their players are all based in the leading championships,” said forward Marko Devic. “We’re not heading into the unknown; we know exactly what we’ll be up against: one of the best teams in the world.”

Both sides have past heart-aches that will serve to motivate.

Deschamps was part of the France team that lost 2-1 to Bulgaria at the Parc des Princes in November 1993, ending French hopes of securing their berth at the 1994 World Cup. The 45-year-old admits he is still haunted by the failure 20 years ago but is nevertheless focused on ensuring qualification for Brazil. “It may have been 20 years ago but it still sticks in my mind,” he said. “I don’t want to experience that again.”

Ukraine’s bad memories are a bit more recent as they have suffered play-off defeats in three of the last five World Cups: 1998, 2002 and 2010.

Prediction

Expect a cagey first leg in Kiev with Ukraine looking to defend well and feed off the energy from the home crowd. They’ll do their best to avoid conceding and I think Ukraine will manage to do that for the majority of the game but the French will break them late and enjoy a one goal edge heading back to Paris.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT

    Zach Loyd, FC Dallas Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

    A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver Whitecaps

    Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.

  3. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 1-0 LA Galaxy

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    D.C. United D.C. United

    It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.

  4. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City

    Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.

  5. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Netherlands, Italy rescue draws; Bale, Wales go top

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale, Wales Gareth Bale, Wales

    It wasn’t a great day to be a traditional European giant, but it was a great day to be Gareth Bale and Wales.

  6. MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

    Mar 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution

    A dominant performance — and the three points to match — from the Revs…finally.

  7. Orlando City SC field a four-man bench due to injuries, MLS playing through int’l window

    Mar 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Kaka, Orlando City SC Kaka, Orlando City SC

    Think that MLS playing through int’l windows isn’t a big deal? Let’s ask Orlando City what they think about it.

  8. If you only read one story on Sol Campbell today, let it be this one.

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    Preview Screening of 'Invincibles' Getty Images

    Campbell was capped 73 times, and is England’s second-youngest captain. Clearly he knows that, too.

  9. WATCH: Gareth Bale just scored a nice free kick for Wales… if you’re into that sort of thing

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT

    Israel Wales Euro Soccer AP

    A win would give Wales a two-point lead in Group B with a game-in-hand on both Israel and Cyprus.

  10. Freddy Adu has joined a new club, this one in Finland

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:39 PM EDT

    CBMeXdCVIAAteBM-300x225

    The Canaries finished in 7th place last season in the Veikkausliiga, Finland’s top-flight.

  11. Klinsmann’s USMNT struggles, experimentation in friendlies: Does it really matter?

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    Denmark Soccer Usa AP

    Should the States’ losses in friendlies represent anything other than a concern at the lack of US youth readiness for the big stage?

  12. Liverpool’s Glen Johnson linked with summer move to, January start date with Barcelona

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Getty Images

    This likely comes as a surprise to Liverpool fans, as Johnson is widely treated rightly or wrongly as a scapegoat by Reds supporters.

  13. Klinsmann explains philosophy behind mad scientist lineups, formations for USMNT

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    Denmark US Soccer AP

    Does the embattled USMNT coach have a point? I’m again bracing for the comment section when I say… I think so.

  14. Russia wants full points from match abandoned after Akinfeev struck in head by flare (video)

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Russia's Igor Akinfeev hit by flare at Montenegro, match later abandoned Getty Images

    Given UEFA president Michel Platini’s concerned words and warning about fan violence just this week, could he do something even more harsh?

  15. Marsch critical of Klinsmann’s experimentation, lack of USMNT “identity”

    Mar 28, 2015, 7:55 AM EDT

    Jesse Marsch AP

    The States are 1-4 in their last five matches, all four coming on the road (Colombia, Ireland, Chile and Denmark).

  16. Injury update: England likely facing Italy without Welbeck, Sterling

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    England v Slovenia - EURO 2016 Qualifier Getty Images

    Both Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling will most likely be out of England’s friendly vs. Italy on Tuesday.

  17. Wayne Rooney after Euro qualifying win over Lithuania: Other nations ‘frightened’ of England

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT

    Scotland v England - International Friendly Getty Images

    England trounced Lithuania 4-0 in a Euro qualifier for their seventh-straight win since the World Cup, and captain Wayne Rooney likes what future lies ahead for his country.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment