Ukraine, history stand in France’s way in bid to make 2014 WC

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SummaryFrance needs an unprecedented comeback to avoid missing its first World Cup in 20 years.

France needs an unprecedented comeback to avoid missing its first World Cup in 20 years. No European team has ever qualified for the World Cup through the playoffs after losing the first leg 2-0.

Two decades after France failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup following a shock home defeat against Bulgaria, Les Bleus lost to Ukraine for the first time in the first leg by a two-goal margin.

That means the odds are indeed heavily stacked against Didier Deschamps’s team ahead of Tuesday’s return game at the Stade de France.

The French players’ display was so poor on Friday that it led the French media to question if the national side’s performance had been the “worst in history”.

To turn around the result, France needs to rediscover its attacking potency as Deschamps — who won the 1998 World Cup and the European championships two years later as a player, must decide who to play up front against an extremely well organised Ukrainian side.

“We’ll need to have that bit of folly that will make for an exceptional match,” Deschamps said. “But we also have to realise they won’t play with 10 players at the back. We have to put them under pressure from the start and show a lot of determination and keep the high tempo going until the end.”

Flourishing in the Premier League this season, Loic Remy had a poor game on the right wing in Kiev and could be replaced with Karim Benzema, meaning that Deschamps could keep Olivier Giroud as his central sriker. Samir Nasri had a quiet game and may be replaced in the playmaker’s role by Mathieu Valbuena.

Franck Ribery will also need to raise his game. He struggled to make any meaningful impact in Ukraine. “They were very aggressive toward him. They made a lot of fouls that went unpunished. Ukraine eliminated Franck.”

With Laurent Koscielny suspended, Deschamps has a headache in defense and must decide who will play alongside Eric Abidal.

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