France had a tough matchup, as they needed to recover from a 0-2 deficit against Ukraine suffered in the first leg played in Kiev.
The pressure was thought to be on players like Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema to turn things around, but despite all the stars in the French lineup, the hero for today’s match was no other than Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho, who scored the first and third goals of a 3-0 victory that put France in the World Cup next year.
The central defender was able not only to find the back of the net twice, but he was also the main threat defensively, as he played with an uncharacteristic poise and leadership for a player of his age. The former PSG defender has always been considered one of the brightest prospects of the French soccer, but he’s only now playing at the level many expected him to be playing.
Luckily for France, Sakho was able to come through right when his team needed him the most at both ends of the pitch. His performance was decisive for France to turn things around, and even when the team had solid outings from other players like Benzema, who netted the second goal, and Paul Pogba, Sakho ended up being the decisive factor in France’s biggest match in recent years.
The 3-0 flipped the tables, and France ended up winning the playoff tie by a 3-2 aggregate score that puts them on the plane to Brazil’s World Cup next year. It’s clear that the team needs to improve if they want to do anything meaningful in the tournament next June, but they can stay calm knowing that they have several quality players to turn things around sooner rather than later.
If Sakho keeps progressing at this level, France will have a top player at the defensive line that should bring stability, leadership and even some goals in the attacking end.