Aside from being viewed as underachievers in terms of their performance in the past three international tournaments they have participated in, France has been known a a team capable of losing its composure and allowing things to get ugly quickly. On Friday night in their first leg game of their 2014 World Cup Qualifying Playoff against Ukraine, France once again lost its composure as they lost 2-0 in Kiev.
France started out playing a very composed first half defensively. Knowing that Ukraine would come out and pressure them early, France came out in a 4-3-2-1 formation to absorb the pressure Ukraine’s attack, while France’s attacking players were expected to be able use their individual skill to create scoring chances. While France’s defensive players held up their end of the bargain, the team’s attacking players lacked the composure needed to create chances.
This doomed them in the second half. As Roman Zozulya scored in the 61st minute to give Ukraine a surprising 1-0 lead, France began to unravel. From that moment on, they played like a team who did not know how to generate a consistent attack that could trouble the Ukrainian defense, while committing unnecessary and boneheaded fouls on defense.
Central defender Laurent Koscielny best exhibited this with a foul on Zozulya in the penalty area in the 80th minute, which led to Andriy Yarmolenko scoring the subsequent penalty to give Ukraine a 2-0 lead. As if that weren’t enough, Koscielny saw a red card during second half stoppage time for a unnecessary foul on Olxander Kucher. This will leave France without its best defender for the return leg on Tuesday.
France can only look at themselves for reasons why they head into Tuesday’s game down 2-0 and face being eliminated for a chance to play in Brazil next summer. While the return leg game will be played at the Stade de France, it is hard to imagine that France will be able to overturn a 2-0 deficit and somehow win to qualify for the World Cup. One cannot expect Didier Deschamps‘s team to maintain composure when all the pressure will be on them, something that will be heightened if they do not score an early goal.
Aside from history going against them as few teams that lose the first leg game by two or more goals pull of miracle in the second leg, France will be battling against its own recent history of crumbling under such pressure-packed games. It is clear that this has become a bad habit which shows no sign of being corrected.