Skip to content

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

Nov 19, 2013, 6:08 PM EDT

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. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Sevilla stumbles in top-four race; Milan derby ends scoreless

    Apr 19, 2015, 6:02 PM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-GRANADA-SEVILLA Getty Images

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.

  2. VIDEO: Is relegation a possibility for Newcastle United?

    Apr 19, 2015, 5:07 PM EDT

    Thousands of supporters boycotted Newcastle’s match today, as they dropped their sixth straight in the league. With 35 points and five to play, should the Magpies be worrying about relegation?

  3. Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool lacks big-game mentality

    Apr 19, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Liverpool - FA Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

    Following Liverpool’s FA Cup semifinal loss to Aston Villa, the Reds’ boss said his side must learn how to deal with the occasion in big matches.

  4. Report: 8 gunned down during Brazilian soccer fan club meeting

    Apr 19, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Corinthians Getty Images

    The horrible attack comes the night before a local derby, but police have ruled out fan violence as a motive.

  5. VIDEO: “I Was There” visits both sides of the Manchester derby

    Apr 19, 2015, 2:34 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 1.05.17 PM

    Go inside the Manchester Derby match day experience with a pair of supporter groups.

  6. David Silva may have escaped the worst following scary injury

    Apr 19, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    Silva Getty Images

    The Manchester City winger was sent home quickly from the hospital and he confirmed the “tests have gone well.”

  7. VIDEO: Pellegrini talks straightforward win over West Ham

    Apr 19, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT

    Pellegrini Getty Images

    The Manchester City manager wouldn’t be drawn into questions about his future at the club.

  8. Newcastle 1-3 Tottenham: Chadli, Eriksen see Spurs into sixth

    Apr 19, 2015, 12:51 PM EDT

    Spurs Getty Images

    Spurs bracketed halftime with a pair of goals and they stood tall to Newcastle’s spotty threat.

  9. Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool: Gerrard denied fairytale ending as Villa stun Reds, reach FA Cup final

    Apr 19, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-ASTONVILLA-LIVERPOOL FBL-ENG-FACUP-ASTONVILLA-LIVERPOOL

    Villa will play Arsenal in the FA Cup final after beating Liverpool against all the odds.

  10. Jose Mourinho: Chelsea had Manchester United’s stars “in our pockets.” Is he right?

    Apr 19, 2015, 11:39 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Mourinho plays up defensive masterclass. But how did he quell United’s attackers?

  11. Watch Live: Newcastle vs Tottenham (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:44 AM EDT

    StJamesPark Getty Images

    Spurs search for a European place as they take on struggling Newcastle from St. James’ Park.

  12. Manchester City 2-0 West Ham: Two first half goals put down poor Hammers

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    ManchesterCity AP

    The home side produced enough moments at the Etihad to see off a timid West Ham side.

  13. Memphis Depay is a major summer target for top teams according to PSV exec

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT

    Depay Getty Images

    With his goal of an Eredivisie title secure, Memphis Depay will be a popular transfer target this coming summer.

  14. VIDEO: Odd James Collins own goal opens scoring at the Etihad

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Goal Getty Images

    The West Ham defender flubbed an easy clearance and sent the ball into his own net as Manchester City have dominated West Ham in the first half.

  15. Borussia Dortmund names Thomas Tuchel as Jurgen Klopp’s successor

    Apr 19, 2015, 8:16 AM EDT

    KloppTuchel Getty Images

    Thomas Tuchel will follow in Jurgen Klopp’s footsteps for the second time when he takes over at Borussia Dortmund this summer.

  16. Watch Live: Manchester City vs West Ham (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 19, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT

    PellegriniAllardyce AP

    A pair of slipping sides meet at the Etihad in a rematch of last seasons title-clinching win for Manchester City.

  17. Injuries piling up for top teams as Modric, Mertesacker go down

    Apr 19, 2015, 7:31 AM EDT

    Mertesacker Getty Images

    It’s that time of year, where big clubs look to the bench to replace important players in big games.

  18. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps Getty Images

    Two red cards for RSL, a late goal for Vancouver and the Whitecaps just keep winning.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea