Ukraine vs. France: 6 Things We Learned

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2013

Ukraine vs. France: 6 Things We Learned

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    Ukraine’s 2-0 win over France in the first leg of their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off puts Didier Deschamps’ side in an unenviable position going into next week’s return fixture.

    Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko’s goals have put the Yellow-Blues in the driving seat of the tie and Les Bleus will be asking some serious questions of themselves defensively and in attack.

    Laurent Koscielny and Oleksandr Kuchev’s late red cards meant that both sides finished with 10 men.

    Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side have one foot in Brazil thanks to their brilliant organisation, while France need to start scoring goals if they are to have any chance of salvaging a ticket to the party.

    It was an insipid display from Deschamps’ side, typical of the performances before they stuck six goals past a poor Australia side and then three past Finland. The optimism that stemmed from those two results has now well and truly disappeared.

    For Ukraine, though, it was a well-deserved victory and will fill them with confidence going into a challenging second leg.

    Here are six things we learned from Ukraine’s 2-0 win over France.

France Need Goals

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    There were some poor performances in the French side on the night in Ukraine and Didier Deschamps needs to pick an attacking line-up to start the return leg at the Stade de France.

    Samir Nasri and Loic Remy were particularly disappointing going forward and Olivier Giroud struggled and looked isolated while he was on the pitch.

    Deschamps, like Laurent Blanc before him, does not trust Giroud and Karim Benzema together. However, he has few other choices and needs goals so cannot justify not going with both from the start.

    That might not even be enough, though, with Ribery all of a sudden the anonymous player he has been at times over the past few years when playing for France and the midfield devoid of creativity.

Ukraine Cannot Sit Back in Paris

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    They may hold a two-goal lead heading to France, but Ukraine cannot sit back and defend for 90 minutes.

    Didier Deschamps has no choice but to throw everything his side has at their visitors in the hope of finding an early goal to drag his side back into the tie.

    Mykhaylo Fomenko’s men are likely to enjoy less of the ball than they did at home, but they need to put the game beyond France as quickly as possible.

    If the hosts get the first goal, the two missing members of the Yellow-Blues’ first-choice defensive back line could come back to haunt them.

    But equally, before the 6-0 thumping of Australia and the 3-0 win over Finland, Les Bleus looked inept in front of goal.

France Must Get Ribery into the Tie

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    It was obvious, but the Ukrainians evidently did their homework ahead of the clash. Franck Ribery was barely allowed a sniff over 90 minutes in Kiev and was marked out of the game.

    The hosts suffocated the Bayern Munich man at every opportunity and, as a result, France created very little without him pulling the strings.

    Perhaps a more dominant midfield, featuring Yohan Cabaye in a deep role, would be able to hold on to the ball better and bring Ribery into the match.

    However, the ineffectual Samir Nasri will not have helped and Loic Remy was also below his best, putting the pressure on the FIFA Ballon d’Or candidate as Les Bleus’ only creative midfield outlet.

    Mathieu Valbuena will surely return to the side in place of either Remy or Nasri with both possibly dropping to the bench if Deschamps decides to go with Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud.

Ukraine Need to Be More Clinical

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    Thanks to the joy that Ukraine had down the flanks, Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side had more chances than they arguably expected to have during the game.

    Their 2-0 advantage is a deserved one, but they need to score at least once next week. In Paris, they have to take one or more of the chances they create as they are likely to get fewer openings.

    France will be wise to the threats of Yevhen Konoplyanka and particularly Andriy Yarmolenko, so Didier Deschamps will adjust his side accordingly.

    Roman Zozulya was a handful for Les Bleus’ defence, but he did not look like a clinical threat until his fortuitous effort went in.

    Fomenko needs his striker(s) to be capable of taking any chances that come their way at the Stade de France for progression to be possible next Tuesday.

France Have to Cope with Ukraine’s Wide Threats in Return Match

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    France’s main defensive problem now misses the return leg as Laurent Koscielny’s red card sees the Arsenal man suspended in Paris.

    He was arguably at fault for both goals and his late dismissal was inexplicable and possibly an international career suicide.

    As predicted pre-match, Ukraine targeted France’s full-backs Mathieu Debuchy and Patrice Evra as the particular weak points in Didier Deschamps’ side.

    The hosts got plenty out of both, but second goal scorer Andriy Yarmolenko looked the Yellow-Blues’ main threat. Evra on the left looked particularly uncomfortable and a number of chances, notably in the first half, came from that side.

    If Les Bleus are to qualify next Tuesday, Deschamps has got to come up with a solution to one or both sides of the defence as well as conjuring up some goal scoring forwards.

    Conceding an away goal at the Stade de France will be fatal trailing 2-0 and given how few attacks the French mustered over 90 minutes in Kiev.

Ukraine Need to Handle Their Temper Better in Paris

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    Early on in Kiev and a few times during the match, tempers threatened to boil over. That was particularly true of Ukraine, despite Laurent Koscielny’s second half flash point.

    Ten players came into the match on a booking for the hosts and Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side will have to tone their aggression down in the return leg.

    Artem Fedetskiy, for example, misses out in Paris thanks to his yellow card and Oleksandr Kucher’s late red deprives the Ukrainians of two of their starting back four.

    Going a man down with the tie so delicately poised would be potentially decisive given how close the Kiev match was.

    Playing for a period with 10 men would make it easier for France to get back on level terms or to take the lead, depending on how the return leg is going.