Skip to content

Historic comeback sees France into World Cup 2014, Ukraine denied place in Brazil

Nov 19, 2013, 6:08 PM EST

mamadou_sakho_karim_benzema Reuters

If reaction to last week’s loss in Kiev seemed over-the-top to you, know that no team had ever come back from a 2-0, first leg loss in a UEFA playoff. So while the reaction to France’s two-goal loss last Friday may have carried a tinge apoplexy, it was justified. History told us France, one of handful of most talented teams in world soccer, was virtually done, set to be to 2012 what the Netherlands were to World Cup 2002.

Virtually, however, is the key word. France was not dead, a point Didier Deschamps hammered home post-match last Friday. Although the French public were dubious, figures like Zinedine Zidane picked up the flag, trying to rally the spirits of what was anticipated to be a circumspect Paris crowd. And after today’s performance at the Stade de France, they were vindicated for doing so.

With first half goals from Mamadou Sakho and Karim Benzema, Les Bleus had climbed out of their hole, and when the Liverpool defender completing his unlikely double in Tuesday’s second half, France’ re-wrote European qualifying history. Becoming the first team to overturn a two-goal, first leg deficit, France is into their fifth consecutive World Cup, sending Ukraine home after today’s 3-0 result in Paris.

Deschamps’ team, who held 68 percent possession and outshot Ukraine 24-9, joins Portugal, Croatia, and Greece as fellow playoff qualifiers from Europe. With Africa seeing Ghana and Algeria qualify earlier today, Brazil 2014 is up to 30 confirmed teams, with Mexico (up 5-1 over New Zealand) and Uruguay (up 5-0 on Jordan) likely to complete the field.

[MORE: Ronaldo topples Zlatan: Real Madrid star’s hat trick sends Portugal past Sweden, into the 2014 World Cup]

[MORE: Europe World Cup playoff roundup: Greece, Croatia complete UEFA’s field for Brazil 2014]

Coming off their first leg disappointment, France made five changes to their starting XI. Sahko and Raphael Varane came in for Eric Abidal and the suspended Laurent Koscielny in defense. Oliver Giroud and Samir Nasri gave way to Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena in attack, while Yohan Cabaye‘s inclusion at Newcastle teammate Loic Remy‘s expense completed Deschamp’s makeover, changing his formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3.

The new team was dominant from the opening moments, not unexpected considering the margin Ukraine had earned in Kiev. But with an early chance from Franck Ribéry and the constant, niggling tests of Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, Les Bleus quickly showed their control would be about more than possession. Had the Shakhtar backstop not made some good early reads, Saint-Denis would have exploded early.

Instead it took 22 minutes for France to scratch the surface, Sahko’s first goal of the night capitalizing on a hard shot from Ribéry. Culminating play that began from a deep restart, Pyatov could do little but lay Ribéry’s shot out for Sahko, whose conversion brought France within one.

source:

Didier Deschamps (right) won a World Cup as a player in 1998. Now he’s set to return as manager of France, having guided his national team through its playoff with Ukraine. (Photo: Reuters.)

Eight minutes later, France had their equalizer. Moments after being erroneously ruled offside, Benzema benefitted from the linesman’s flag mistakenly staying down, his harnessing of some penalty box chaos from an offside position making it 2-2 (aggregate).

One minute into the second half, fortune found France again, this time through the boots of defender Yevhen Khacheridi. The Ukraine center back slid threw Ribéry just after the half’s opening whistle, earning his second yellow card of the night. Though the visitors nearly took a surprise lead moments later, the loss of a man doomed their World Cup hopes.

In 73rd minute, France finally punched their ticket. Sakho, again cleaning up close to goal, converted from five yards out, the former Paris Saint-German man’s second goal sending France back to the World Cup.

The match’s final chapter was one-way traffic, France constantly pushing Ukraine’s backs against their own goal. With the talent to hold the ball and the intent to put the playoff out of reach, Les Bleus were intent on grabbing a fourth. Though the insurance goal never came, France were still able to kill off the match’s final 20 minutes, allowing them to survive a second straight World Cup qualifying playoff.

Along the way, Les Bleus made history, becoming the first team to overcome that 0-2 opening leg deficit. They also grabbed something that’s been absent over the past four years: Some real positive momentum.

Though a run of good results under Laurent Blanc had allowed them to move on from their disaster at South Africa 2010, France still proved relatively meek at Euro 2012. Now, having faced this worst-case scenario and prevailed, a young, talented generation of club-level stars may be set to transfer their potential onto the international stage.

At a minimum, they have something positive, unifying to build on. It’s not every playoff that ends with this type of accomplishment.

Latest Posts
  1. Milan derby: Return of Roberto Mancini sets the stage for classic Serie A rivalry

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:59 PM EST

    esteban_cambiasso Getty Images

    On Sunday, AC Milan will play host to rivals Inter Milan in “derby della Madonnina”, and Roberto Mancini is back.

  2. Tim Cahill thinks Red Bulls are plainly ‘better’ than New England Revolution

    Nov 22, 2014, 9:47 PM EST

    Tim Cahill 2

    New York Red Bulls’ Designated Player Tim Cahill is far from doubting his team’s capabilities against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Championship on Sunday.

  3. Jose Mourinho apologizes for criticizing supporters, grateful for Blues’ triumph over West Brom

    Nov 22, 2014, 7:12 PM EST

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho apologized to supporters for criticizing the stadium atmosphere, while praising his team’s play in a 2-0 blanking of West Brom.

  4. Arsene Wenger on loss to Manchester United: ‘We dominated 80 percent of the time’

    Nov 22, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    His squad controlling possession and gathering a fair amount of chances on goal, Arsene Wenger believes his side deserved a better result against Manchester United.

  5. Premier League Sunday preview: Liverpool, Spurs take to road to face fellow strugglers Palace, Hull

    Nov 22, 2014, 5:03 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    One game is a rematch of the 3-3 draw that left Luis Suarez in tears, but both Palace and Liverpool have much bigger things to worry about.

  6. Bundesliga roundup: Gotze, Lewandowski lead Bayern rout; Reus hurt in BVB draw

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:45 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Bundesliga AP

    Elsewhere, USMNT defenders Timmy Chandler (right) and John Anthony Brooks picked up wins in 90 minutes each for their clubs.

  7. Alan Pardew, Newcastle organization wishing the best for Ryan Taylor’s recovery

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:25 PM EST

    alan_pardew Getty Images

    Despite an wonderful 1-0 result over QPR to keep their winning run alive, Alan Pardew feels the pain of Ryan Taylor’s sudden injury.

  8. “Always annoyed” Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho: “At halftime it should be four or five nil”

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:38 PM EST

    Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    This season, he has all his players and no excuses. So The Special One is a little ticked off that his Blues aren’t pouring forth goals to match their dominant play.

  9. Alan Irvine calls Costa goal offside, bright spot was spectacular Ben Foster

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:35 PM EST

    alan_irvine Getty Images

    Irvine: “We actually went a goal down to a goal which I thought was offside and that makes life very difficult here.”

  10. Defiant win proves van Gaal’s Manchester United on the right track

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:32 PM EST

    Van Gaal was disappointed his team couldn't hand Chelsea their first defeat of the season. Getty Images

    Red Devils surge to victory away at Arsenal, as LVG’s masterplan is taking shape.

  11. MUST-WATCH: Lionel Messi ties La Liga goals record with fitting free kick

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:51 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-SEVILLA Getty Images

    And there’s still time Saturday to make the record his own, as the game is just at halftime.

  12. Three things we learned from Manchester United’s big win at Arsenal

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:34 PM EST

    Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League

    What did we learn from United’s big win at the Emirates? Plenty. But here’s three things.

  13. Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United: Too little too late for Giroud and the chance-squandering Gunners

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:28 PM EST

    Rooney bagged what turned out to be the game-winner as United go fourth. Getty Images

    A testy affair that could’ve gotten Jack Wilshere a red card instead got him injured, and Arsenal had no finish at the Emirates.

  14. Klopp on Premier League: “If somebody will call me, then we will talk about it.”

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Bundesliga AP

    Klopp has been at Dortmund since 2008 when he arrived from Mainz, and would likely have his choice of jobs should Dortmund let him walk.

  15. Leicester City 0-0 Sunderland: Stalemate between relegation candidates

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:14 PM EST

    Leicester City v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Foxes and Black Cats cancel each other out at the King Power.

Featured video

Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United