Home » Latest » France 3 Ukraine 0: Les Bleus pull off stunning comeback

After strikes from Mamadou Sakho and Karim Benzema, an own goal and a rampant French display, you wondered what all the fuss was about.

With their World Cup dream seemingly in tatters after that 2-0 defeat in Ukraine, France fought back with aplomb, ensuring it was cries of ‘Allez les Bleus!’ and not boos that filled the Stade de France last night.

Failure to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in 20 years, particularly with a string of friendly fixtures stretching ahead until the country hosts Euro 2016, was apparently unthinkable.

That was how France played last night, almost from the whistle. Fuelled, perhaps, by the anger of the justifiable criticism aimed at them after Friday’s loss they ran Ukraine ragged and then ruthlessly went for the kill after Yevgen Khacheridi was sent off just after half-time.

France still looked hesitant without the ball, but they were occasionally brilliant with it.

Yohan Cabaye — brought in to sit in front of a still vulnerable back four — found Franck  Ribery on the left with a superb dipping pass and Benzema was a muscular nuisance, firing an early header over the bar after Paul Pogba missed the target.

It was Ukraine’s indiscipline that ultimately cost them. Two fouls, two free-kicks and two French goals. The first from Sakho in the 22nd minute after Andriy Pyatov could only push Ribery’s strike back into play and the second from Benzema, albeit from an offside position after a scuffed shot from Cabaye.

The French would argue it was karma for the goal the Real Madrid striker saw wrongly  disallowed five minutes earlier after he sprinted to the back post to tap in a cross from Ribery.

Perhaps, though, we should put any thoughts of karma to one side given what happened to the Republic of Ireland the last time France were in the play-offs. On this occasion, at least, Didier Deschamps’ side were fully deserving of their lead.

Ukraine’s discipline deserted them again within two minutes of the second half. Khacheridi caught Ribery, the Bayern Munich star fell dramatically to the ground and referee Damir Skomina reached for a second yellow card.

France barely needed a  further invitation to attack and Benzema blasted a shot high over the bar while Blaise  Matuidi got his feet in a tangle after an inviting pass from the ever-threatening Ribery.

Ukraine still had chances, with Hugo Lloris saving well at the feet of Roman Zozulya after 70 minutes, but then substitute Oleg Gusev put the ball into his own net under pressure from Sakho after a wicked Ribery cross — and France were ahead on aggregate for the first time.

The celebrations were loud and passionate; a collective outpouring of relief, followed by confirmation after the game of a two-year contract extension for Deschamps. Suddenly, France are travelling smoothly on the road to Brazil 2014.

France: Lloris 6, Debuchy 6 (Sagna 78), Evra 6, Varane 5, Sakho 7, Cabaye 7, Matuidi 7, Valbuena 6, Pogba 7, Ribery 8, Benzema 7 (Giroud 82). Subs not used: Landreau, Giroud, Nasri, Clichy, Grenier, Mandanda, Payet, Sissoko, Remy, Mavuba, Abidal.

Booked: Sakho, Evra, Debuchy.

Goals: Sakho 22, Benzema 34, Gusev og 72.

Ukraine: Pyatov 7, Shevchuk 5, Khacheridi 4, Mandzyuk 5, Rakitskiy 6, Yarmolenko 6, Konoplyanka 6, Rotan 6, Bezus 5 (Gusev 64, 4), Edmar 5, Zozulya 5 (Seleznov 76). Subs not used: Khudzamov, Dedechko, Tymoschuk, Khomchenovskiy, Stepanenko, Seleznyov, Fedorchuk, Morozyuk, Sydorchuk, Devic.

Booked: Rotan, Mandziuk.

Sent off: Khacheridi.

Man of the match: Franck Ribery.

Attendance: 77,000

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia) 5.

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