Ukraine: Mykhaylo Fomenko (8-2-0)
France: Didier Deschamps (7-4-5)
Eighth Meeting All-Time
Series History: France four wins, Ukraine zero wins, three draws
Ukraine started out very slow in their group during this cycle with two draws and a loss when they decided to make a managerial change. Enter Mykhaylo Fomendo who preached more structure defensively and more possession. His tactics have worked brilliantly as in his 10 matches in charge Ukraine has only allowed two goals. They are just suffocating the opposing offenses.
Much of that is due to the familiarity of the backline; Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Vyacheslav Shevchuk are teammates at Shakhtar Donetsk while Artem Fedetskiy and Yevhen Khacheridi also play in the Ukrainian Premier League. These players will be tasked with neutralizing the potent French attack.
Ukraine will need to capitalize on this opportunity for qualification as their midfield core is heading towards the end of their international careers. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is 34, Ruslan Rotan is 32 and Edmar Halovskyi is 33; they do have some bright young players looking to replace them in Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Ukraine Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Artem Fedetskiy — Yevhen Khacheridi — Yaroslav Rakitskiy — Vyacheslav Shevchuk
Anatoliy Tymoshchuk — Ruslan Rotan
Andriy Yarmolenko — Edmar Halovskyi — Yevhen Konoplyanka
If France is to qualify for the World Cup from this playoff series then history tells us that they will make the World Cup Final. Here are France’s last four appearances in the tournament:
1998: six wins, one draw, zero losses, 15 goals scored, two goals against and World Cup Champions.
2002: zero wins, one draw, two losses, zero goals scored, three goals against and eliminated in the Group Stage.
2006: four wins, three draws, zero losses, nine goals scored, three goals against and runners-up to Italy.
2010: zero wins, one draw, two losses, one goal scored, four goals against and eliminated in the Group Stage.
France will have confidence in their ability to get a result in the first leg; they won 2-0 against Ukraine in Donetsk during the Euro 2012 Tournament. This Ukraine team though is vastly superior defensively to their 2012 counterparts but this French team is superior offensively to most of the squads that Ukraine has faced recently.
It is not important that France won the first leg but they will still want to get the best result possible. Something that will be interesting to watch will be the possession number for France which has been in the 60 percent range during four of the last five qualifiers and could be a little higher against Ukraine who have struggled to be at 50 percent in their last three non-San Marino qualifiers.
France Projected Lineup: 4-4-2
Mathieu Debuchy — Laurent Koscielny — Éric Abidal — Patrice Evra
Mathieu Valbuena — Blaise Matuidi — Yohan Cabaye — Franck Ribéry
Olivier Giroud — Karim Benzema
Ukraine hosts France in the first leg of their UEFA Qualifying Playoff at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on Friday, Nov 15 at 2:45 p.m. ET and can be seen online on ESPN3
First Leg Prediction: Ukraine 0, France 0