Ukraine leads 2-0
Ukraine: Mykhaylo Fomenko (9-2-0)
France: Didier Deschamps (7-4-6)
Ninth Meeting All-Time
Series History: France – four wins, Ukraine – one win, three draws
To say that the first leg of this series was a physical one would be the understatement of the year as the two squads combined for 42 fouls. On top of that, both squads will be without a starting center-back as Oleksandr Kucher and Laurent Koscielny were each sent off in the second-half stoppage time.
Ukraine will be beaming with confidence going into the second leg now that they can rely on their biggest strength, which has been their defense that has only given up four goals in 11 qualifying matches during this cycle. As much credit as the defense has gotten this campaign, we should not forget about the offense and the young core of players such as Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and striker Roman Zozulya that will keep the Ukraine relevant in the Euro 2016 qualifying cycle.
As difficult as it will be for France to overturn this deficit, it will not be impossible. France has proved that they can score in bunches at home, doing it three times during the group stage. None of those games (Finland, Georgia and Belarus) were against anybody close to the caliber of talent that Ukraine has, however.
The biggest key for France in this match is to make sure that they get back defensively as they start throwing numbers forward. Counterattacks are very deadly in soccer, and all the Ukraine needs is one away goal to make France’s life even more difficult.
I think that France will fill their center-back position opening with 23-year old Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool. Sakho featured in France’s first four group matches and should be able to add another target on offensive set pieces at 6-foot-2.
France Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Mathieu Debuchy — Mamadou Sakho – Eric Abidal – Patrice Evra
Blaise Matuidi – Paul Pogba
Samir Nasri – Karim Benzema – Franck Ribery
Ukraine Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Artem Fedetskiy – Yevhen Khacheridi – Anatoliy Tymoshchuk – Vyacheslav Shevchuk
Taras Stepanenko – Ruslan Rotan
Andriy Yarmolenko – Edmar Halovskyi –Yevhen Konoplyanka
France hosts Ukraine in the second leg of their UEFA Qualifying Playoff at the Stade de France in Paris on Tuesday, November 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET and can be seen online at ESPN3.
This is a two-game aggregate series; away goals are used for the tiebreaker. If the series score and away goals are tied after these 90 minutes, then the match will proceed into two 15-minute extra time periods. If it is still tied, then the match will move forward to penalty kicks.
Second Leg Prediction: Ukraine 1, France 0 (Ukraine wins 3-0 on aggregate and advances to the FIFA World Cup)
If Thierry Henry miraculously makes it on the pitch, then I would definitely give France the upper hand in this one. Since that won’t happen, Ukraine is going through.