France are on the verge of tragically missing out on the World Cup and face the possibility of having to watch the world’s finest in front of their television sets at home.
Didier Deschamps’ side go into the second leg of their tie against Ukraine having to overcome a two goal deficit in front of their own native supporters.
Second-half goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko have put the Ukrainians in a very strong position, after previously finishing runners-up to England in their qualifying group.
With the high calibre squad in which France possess, with players such as Ballon d’Or contender Franck Ribery, in form Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema; you may expect that the fans remain optimistic of booking their flights for Brazil in 2014.
However, you would be wrong. In a poll in the country’s biggest sports daily, L’Equipe, ahead of the second leg, more than 60% of respondents believe France will not qualify.
Despite this, and the fact that his side will be without Laurent Koscielny due to suspension, Blaise Matuidi believes that the 2006 World Cup finalists have what it takes to turn the tie around and break Ukrainian hearts.
“For most of us, it is the most important game in our careers. We all want to show something different to what we did on Friday," Matuidi told reporters.
We have to be stronger in the battles and improve our technical quality”. The PSG midfielder went on to say, “We have to play with heart, with guts, but with the head as well. We have to score but we cannot afford to let in a goal. We know we have the talent to do it but we have to show pride and passion.”
Ukraine will arrive at the Stade de France as firm favourites to reach the finals in Brazil, and goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov is confident that no surprises are forecast.
He told the Football Federation of Ukraine’s website: “It will be a difficult match but that’s football. There is tension, emotion, but we are very focused on the game and believe in ourselves.”
If France are to overcome the deficit on Tuesday night, they will have to end Ukraine’s run of eight successive clean sheets, a national record for which goalkeeper Pyatov was quick to share the accolades with his defenders.
“The guys have been great. When the goalkeeper is not beaten, the team has a better chance of winning. For me the main thing is the result of the team.”
All questions will be put to bed in Paris on Tuesday night. Will Ukraine prosper and reach the World Cup finals in Brazil or will history repeat itself and will France scrape their way into the world’s most famous football competition at the last minute, as they controversially managed against Republic of Ireland four years ago.
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