France must overcome a two-goal deficit in order to qualify for the World Cup after the first leg of its UEFA playoff matchup saw Ukraine struck twice in the second half. The series shifts to France for the deciding leg on Tuesday.
Although Ukraine earned the win in the opening leg, Les Bleus were the better side for the first hour of play. They weren't unable to capitalize on their scoring chances, however, which left the door open for the home squad to gain the upper hand.
Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko scored for the Yellow-Blue. The task is far from done for Ukraine, though. France is a very talented attacking side and is likely to play an extremely aggressive style in the second leg while fighting from behind.
It should make for an exciting rematch between the sides with a trip to Brazil on the line. Let's check out all the key information for the qualifying clash, followed by an examination of the top storyline and a match prediction.
Where: Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France
When: Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. GMT)
Watch: Univision Deportes and TV5Monde Europe
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Match Odds (To qualify via Bovada)
Top Storyline: Can France mount a comeback to reach the World Cup?
France sports enough attacking firepower to rebound from the first-leg loss to advance. First, the team needs to get over the frustration of letting opportunities slip away in the opener. Even though it's a match Les Bleus could have easily won, they have to get past that mentally before the rematch.
Assuming they can, the initial task will be taking control of the match in the midfield. Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri must ensure France is able to maintain possession like the first match, but must push forward with more authority once they do.
From there, the onus will fall on whichever two forwards manager Didier Deschamps calls on to start. Karim Benzema is the most accomplished at the international level, but Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy have both displayed good form with their clubs.
Regardless of which pair gets picked, France will have enough finishing ability on the pitch to mount a comeback. It translates to a lot of pressure on the Ukraine back line.
The one thing Ukraine shouldn't try to do is defend for 90 minutes and hope to hold the aggregate edge. It should try to keep things as level as possible in terms of possession, playing the same style of football that allowed them to get in such a promising position in the first place.
Chances should be available on the counterattack with France desperately pushing forward to erase the deficit. Ukraine needs to take advantage of that and avoid falling into a defensive shell.
Vyacheslav Shevchuk and Yevhen Khacheridi lead the Ukraine defense and how they, along with their back line mates, hold up early in the match is a critical factor. They can't allow France to strike early to get right back on track.
The longer Ukraine is able to keep France at bay, the more risks Les Bleus will need to take, and that should open up more opportunities on the counter. France is going to make a charge, but the final 30 minutes of the first leg will likely come back to haunt the star-studded squad.
France 2, Ukraine 1 (Ukraine qualifies)