When Ukraine went 1-0 up in the 61st minute, things looked bleak for France. When Andriy Yarmolenko put the nail in the proverbial coffin with an 82nd-minute penalty, things went to downright disastrous for Les Bleus.
The same team that looked to be a favorite a year ago is now one game away from missing out on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, causing many to label this French team ‘the worst in history.’ A team with enough talent to not only make it – not to mention their Ballon d’Or candidate Franck Ribery – but also to make a run deep into the tournament is on its last leg and needs a miracle.
Two goals down is an unenviable position to be in, but not all hope is lost for the French, and here is why.
When a result is necessary, the team leaders need to set up and the talented playmakers need to make a difference. France has a plethora of players with the ability to do just that. The aforementioned Ribery, Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema all need to be at their best to turn around France’s fortunes.
France will also benefit from home-field advantage, as the Ukrainians will make the trip to the Stade de France in northern Paris. The hosts, who have only lost one game at home in World Cup Qualifying since 2012, will look to cultivate a domestic fortress inside of which they can complete the turnaround.
France will be without one of their better defenders in Laurent Koscielny after he picked up a poor red card for striking another player in stoppage time. This means that he will miss out on the next – and possibly last – match, and Mamadou Sakho will be thrown into the fray in Koscielny’s place.
Ukraine will also be without their most experienced defender, Oleksandr Kucher, who picked up a second yellow at the end of stoppage time. It is within the realm of possibility that France can qualify for the 2014 World Cup. As long as Les Bleus can to play to their potential and their fans can stay behind them 100 percent, France will find themselves in Brazil come the summer of 2014.