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Stunning turnaround sees France through

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DESCHAMPS-AIRPARIS, France, November 20 – France produced a stunning performance to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit and qualify for the World Cup finals on Tuesday, beating Ukraine 3-0 in Paris.

In front of a raucous crowd at the Stade de France, Les Bleus took the lead on the night midway through the first half through Mamadou Sakho and levelled the tie on aggregate when Karim Benzema netted from an offside position on 34 minutes.

 

That strike came shortly after the Real Madrid man had seen a perfectly good goal disallowed, and the controversy continued as Ukraine defender Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off early in the second period.

 

France made their one-man advantage count as an Oleg Gusev own-goal put them ahead in the tie for the first time in the 72nd minute and Didier Deschamps’ side saw out the rest of the game to win 3-2 on aggregate.

 

“Four days ago, we were in a bad position but the players were fantastic tonight,” Deschamps told French television.

 

“I didn’t have doubts but we played a huge match and this qualification is very important for French football.

 

“It’s a bit of a tradition that when French teams have their backs against the wall, they peform and we had a lot of heart and determination today.

 

“Now we’ve qualified, we’re capable of some great things.”

 

“I have lived through some great moments in my long career,” said the 45-year-old, who skippered France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 during his playing days, while also captaining the Marseille side that won the 1993 Champions League.

 

“To take France to a World Cup is fabulous, especially after the first leg, where the result was not favourable.”

 

Deschamps was thrown into the air by his players in the centre-circle of the Stade de France at the end of the game, bringing back memories of the 1998 World Cup final, but he was determined that all the credit for the result should go to his team.

 

Meanwhile, Ukraine coach Mikhail Fomenko confirmed that he would continue in his role despite the disappointment and added: “I am really sorry for the result but the fact we got this far is already something positive.”

 

As expected, Deschamps rang the changes, making five in all to his starting line-up from Friday’s 2-0 loss in Kiev, with Raphael Varane, Sakho, Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Valbuena and Benzema coming in.

 

For Ukraine, there were three changes, notably in defence, where the banned Oleksandr Kucher and Artem Fedetskiy were replaced by Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Vitaliy Mandziuk respectively.

 

The visitors must have been braced for a backs-to-the-wall job, but they could scarcely have expected France to play with such a high level of intensity in the first half.

 

Ukraine were pinned back from kick-off, and goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov turned a Valbuena shot around the post inside three minutes before Paul Pogba headed a Valbuena corner over the bar.

 

Just as the away side thought they had taken some of the early sting out of the contest, their defence – which had gone eight successive matches without conceding before this game – was finally undone in the 22nd minute.

 

When a Valbuena set-piece delivery from the right fell to Franck Ribery on the edge of the box, the Bayern Munich man’s shot was blocked by Pyatov, but Sakho was on hand to convert the rebound from a tight angle, the Liverpool defender netting his first international goal.

 

France’s hope turned to genuine belief, and the home fans rose to their feet as a glorious shooting opportunity fell to Pogba on the edge of the box. However, the young midfielder could only blaze his effort over the bar.

 

Controversy followed as Benzema bundled a low Ribery cross from the left into the net at the back post, only for the offside flag to cut short his joy.

 

It was the wrong decision by the Slovenian officials but remarkably another error on their part allowed France to level the tie.

 

POGBA-FANSA scramble in the Ukrainian box saw the ball come off Valbuena and fall to Benzema. This time, he was offside but the assistant’s flag stayed down as he gleefully fired home.

 

Ukraine knew an away goal would swing the tie back in their favour, but they barely produced an attempt in the opening half and their hopes were dealt another blow just after the restart as Khacheridi, who had been cautioned late in the first half, was booked again for a challenge on Ribery.

 

Down to 10 men, Ukraine remained a threat and Roman Bezus just missed the target from long range, but France continued to press in search of a third goal and they got their reward with under 20 minutes remaining.

 

When a Patrice Evra shot was pushed out by Pyatov, Ribery returned the ball across goal and unfortunate substitute Gusev turned it into his own net under pressure from Sakho.

 

Pyatov saved from substitute Olivier Giroud’s header as France sought to put the final outcome beyond doubt, but they held on to secure their ticket to Brazil.

Stunning turnaround takes France to World Cup
02:10 – 20/11/13

© AFP
French players lift coach Didier Deschamps into the air after winning the 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on November 19, 2013
© AFP Kenzo Tribouillard

Paris (AFP) – France produced a stunning performance to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit and qualify for the World Cup finals on Tuesday, beating Ukraine 3-0 in Paris.

In front of a raucous crowd at the Stade de France, Les Bleus took the lead on the night midway through the first half through Mamadou Sakho and levelled the tie on aggregate when Karim Benzema netted from an offside position on 34 minutes.

That strike came shortly after the Real Madrid man had seen a perfectly good goal disallowed, and the controversy continued as Ukraine defender Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off early in the second period.

France made their one-man advantage count as an Oleg Gusev own-goal put them ahead in the tie for the first time in the 72nd minute and Didier Deschamps’ side saw out the rest of the game to win 3-2 on aggregate.

© AFP
France’s forward Karim Benzema (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on November 19, 2013
© AFP Kenzo Tribouillard

“Four days ago, we were in a bad position but the players were fantastic tonight,” Deschamps told French television.

“I didn’t have doubts but we played a huge match and this qualification is very important for French football.

“It’s a bit of a tradition that when French teams have their backs against the wall, they peform and we had a lot of heart and determination today.

“Now we’ve qualified, we’re capable of some great things.”

“I have lived through some great moments in my long career,” said the 45-year-old, who skippered France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 during his playing days, while also captaining the Marseille side that won the 1993 Champions League.

“To take France to a World Cup is fabulous, especially after the first leg, where the result was not favourable.”

Deschamps was thrown into the air by his players in the centre-circle of the Stade de France at the end of the game, bringing back memories of the 1998 World Cup final, but he was determined that all the credit for the result should go to his team.

© AFP
France’s forward Franck Ribery reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying match against Ukraine, on November 19, 2013 in Saint-Denis, outside Paris
© AFP Franck Fife

Meanwhile, Ukraine coach Mikhail Fomenko confirmed that he would continue in his role despite the disappointment and added: “I am really sorry for the result but the fact we got this far is already something positive.”

As expected, Deschamps rang the changes, making five in all to his starting line-up from Friday’s 2-0 loss in Kiev, with Raphael Varane, Sakho, Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Valbuena and Benzema coming in.

For Ukraine, there were three changes, notably in defence, where the banned Oleksandr Kucher and Artem Fedetskiy were replaced by Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Vitaliy Mandziuk respectively.

The visitors must have been braced for a backs-to-the-wall job, but they could scarcely have expected France to play with such a high level of intensity in the first half.

Ukraine were pinned back from kick-off, and goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov turned a Valbuena shot around the post inside three minutes before Paul Pogba headed a Valbuena corner over the bar.

Just as the away side thought they had taken some of the early sting out of the contest, their defence – which had gone eight successive matches without conceding before this game – was finally undone in the 22nd minute.

© AFP
French players celebrate after winning the 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on November 19, 2013
© AFP Kenzo Tribouillard

When a Valbuena set-piece delivery from the right fell to Franck Ribery on the edge of the box, the Bayern Munich man’s shot was blocked by Pyatov, but Sakho was on hand to convert the rebound from a tight angle, the Liverpool defender netting his first international goal.

France’s hope turned to genuine belief, and the home fans rose to their feet as a glorious shooting opportunity fell to Pogba on the edge of the box. However, the young midfielder could only blaze his effort over the bar.

Controversy followed as Benzema bundled a low Ribery cross from the left into the net at the back post, only for the offside flag to cut short his joy.

It was the wrong decision by the Slovenian officials but remarkably another error on their part allowed France to level the tie.

© AFP
French midfielder Paul Pogba (front) celebrates with supporters at the end of the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying match against Ukraine, on November 19, 2013 in Saint-Denis, outside Paris
© AFP Franck Fife

A scramble in the Ukrainian box saw the ball come off Valbuena and fall to Benzema. This time, he was offside but the assistant’s flag stayed down as he gleefully fired home.

Ukraine knew an away goal would swing the tie back in their favour, but they barely produced an attempt in the opening half and their hopes were dealt another blow just after the restart as Khacheridi, who had been cautioned late in the first half, was booked again for a challenge on Ribery.

Down to 10 men, Ukraine remained a threat and Roman Bezus just missed the target from long range, but France continued to press in search of a third goal and they got their reward with under 20 minutes remaining.

When a Patrice Evra shot was pushed out by Pyatov, Ribery returned the ball across goal and unfortunate substitute Gusev turned it into his own net under pressure from Sakho.

Pyatov saved from substitute Olivier Giroud’s header as France sought to put the final outcome beyond doubt, but they held on to secure their ticket to Brazil.

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