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. Nine FIFA officials, including CONCACAF president, arrested in Switzerland during dawn raids

    May 27, 2015, 5:20 AM EDT

    65th FIFA Congress Previews 65th FIFA Congress Previews

    FIFA officials from CONCACAF region and South America dominate the FBI’s wanted list.

  2. Report: Multiple FIFA officials arrested in Zurich, will be extradited to United States

    May 27, 2015, 12:44 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    An unprecedented blow to the upper tier of FIFA’s personnel structure could be the beginning of a sweeping takedown of the organization’s corrupt inner workings.

  3. Aguero, Toure, Nasri, Silva among Manchester City’s roster for Toronto FC friendly

    May 26, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT

    Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates his second goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester Reuters

    Toronto FC has put a “projected Starting XI” on Twitter, one that includes Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco.

  4. Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup: Several linked with Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle

    May 26, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Well, the Premier League season has been over for a solid 59 hours, and we shouldn’t let it get to 60 without digging through the muck that is the transfer rumor mill.

  5. There has been an Oguchi Onyewu sighting at New York City FC training

    May 26, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05:  Oguchi Onyewu (R) of the USA in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images) Getty Images

    All-in-all, he’s played for 11 clubs — four on loan — and only one for more than 30 matches (Standard Liege).

  6. Mourinho rips Top 4 rivals at awards dinner; Takes extra shot at Wenger’s Arsenal

    May 26, 2015, 8:36 PM EDT

    WengerMourinho AP

    He finished off the speech with a brilliant line regarding Chelsea, “They played from August till May and sometimes they brought the bus.”

  7. Real Madrid declines purchase option on Chicharito, who heads back to Manchester United

    May 26, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    Chicharito’s career will make an interesting case study when all’s said and done.

  8. Ireland FA chief: “We won’t be voting” for Sepp Blatter

    May 26, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter AP

    “Surely he knows … that outside of the voting chambers, that the world … the players and supporters, want change,” Delaney said.

  9. Loew to rest Neuer, Muller for friendly vs. USMNT, Euro qualifier vs. Gibraltar

    May 26, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT

    Bayern's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (L) and forward Thomas Muller give a press conference in Porto on April14, 2015, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League quarter finals football match FC Porto vs FC Bayern Munich. AFP PHOTO / FRANCISCO LEONG        (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The USMNT faces Germany on June 10 in Cologne after a June 5 date at Amsterdam Arena against the Netherlands.

  10. Ten best young ‘newcomers’ of the 2014-15 Premier League season

    May 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Can gave Liverpool an early lead but they collapsed. Can gave Liverpool an early lead but they collapsed.

    A great deal of clubs can find young talent on our list, as the 2014-15 season review continues.

  11. Reports: Napoli will announce Rafa Benitez departure Thursday; Headed for Real Madrid

    May 26, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT

    VERONA, ITALY - MARCH 15:  Head coach  of SSC Napoli Rafa Benitez looks on  during the Serie A match between Hellas Verona FC and SSC Napoli at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on March 15, 2015 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Napoli finished fourth in Serie A, and made it to the Europa League semifinal before being bounced by Dnipro.

  12. The Premier League’s top and bottom transfers of the season

    May 26, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    This list will tend to include more high-profile names than low-risk moves that didn’t pan out.

  13. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Round 38

    May 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EDT

    Find out which 11 players shone during the final matchday of the 2014-15 PL season.

  14. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Round 38

    May 26, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT

    Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

    A hat trick hero finished the season off in style. Find out who was the best in the PL during the final week of the season.

  15. Premier League Playback: Looking back at a memorable 2014-15 season

    May 26, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor reflects on another action-packed PL season.

  16. West Ham awarded Europa League spot via Fair Play rankings

    May 26, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPWIzNjEyZjUwZDc4ZmQzZDA4NzM5NWMyMzFiMjMxN2Nh Getty Images

    West Ham’s 2015-16 season will now kick off on July 2.

  17. Didier Drogba open to Major League Soccer move after leaving Chelsea

    May 26, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT

    Chelsea FC v MLS All-Stars Getty Images

    Will the 37-year-old finally make his long-rumored switch to MLS this summer?

  18. Despite guiding Watford to the Premier League, Jokanovic on the way out

    May 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Brighton & Hove Albion v Watford - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    The Hornets are extremely likely to have a new manager in charge for the 2015-16 season.

  19. Real Madrid president asked what’s wrong with Carlo Ancelotti: “I don’t know”

    May 26, 2015, 7:38 AM EDT

    Carlo Ancelotti New Real Madrid Manager Press Conference and Photo Call Getty Images

    Real’s president isn’t quite sure why he fired Ancelotti. That says it all.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy