France produced a stirring display against Ukraine and win the second leg of their World Cup playoff 3-0 at the Stade de France to qualify for the World Cup, 3-2 on aggregate. First-half goals from Mamadou Sakho and Karim Benzema sent them on their way before Yevhen Khacheridi got two yellow cards either side of half time to aid France’s task. The decisive third goal came 18 minutes from time when Oleg Gusev put the ball into his own net.
France looked serious peril of failing to make their first World Cup since 94 after a dismal display in Kiev last week that left them with a task that no other side had ever managed in a World Cup playoff -- coming back from a two-goal first-leg deficit. The pressure was on Deschamps and his players from a French public that would doubtless have been baying for blood had they failed to make it to Brazil on the back of unrest among the squad in the last two major tournaments.
Instead, the home side looked on a mission from the off and they got the breakthrough in the 22nd minute. Franck Ribery struck a good low shot from the edge of the box that Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov did well to keep out by Sakho was alert to finish from close range. The Liverpool defender was one of the five players that Deschamps brought into the lineup after the defeat in Kiev. They paid rich dividends.
France could and should have gone 2-0 up on the half-hour mark, but Benzema was incorrectly ruled offside when he finished Ribery’s cross. The officials were equally erroneous in their decision making minutes later, but this time it was to the home side’s advantage. Benzema finished from close range, but was clearly in an offside position from Mathieu Valbuena’s touch.
With France already in the ascendency, Khacheridi’s sending off, the third dismissal in the tie, made them hot favorites to get the win. It took a while to come, but few in France will now be concerned about either that, or the manner of the goal. Sakho was poised to get his second of the game when Ribery’s shot deflected toward him six yards out, but instead Gusev was unable to react quickly enough and ended up bundling the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.