Ukraine v France Preview

World Cup Qualifier | Friday 15 November | Kyiv | 21:45

France will be glad that they avoided the unenviable task of clashing with Portugal to ensure World Cup qualification.

However, they have probably drawn the second shortest straw with a rigorously effective Ukraine side to overcome.

France were always going to struggle to topple Spain in their quest for World Cup participation, but Ukraine can probably feel rightly aggrieved after losing only one game in a deceptively difficult qualification group.

Will they live to rue that one-nil defeat to Montenegro, or can their home crowd rouse them towards a positive first leg result that can give them something to play for in Paris?

To Win (90mins)
Ukraine 21/10
Draw 22/10
France 27/20


Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side will feel like they really missed some opportunities to topple an underwhelming
English national side.

They should have no shortage of confidence going into this game and won’t feel deterred by their underdog status.

They have an implacable determination throughout their squad and in Kiev they have created something of a fortress.

They will likely persist with their 4-1-3-2 formation which has proved effective in big matches, with Tymoshchuk providing the crucial link between defense and midfield.

One would have thought that scoring goals would have proved more difficult for a national side living in the shadow of the influential Andriy Shevchenko.

They have ditched the overly reliant approach favored under Shevchenko for an effective ‘goals by committee’ system.

Yarmolenko, Devic, Bezus and Seleznov have scored fourteen goals between them, reflecting the versatility of the side across the midfield and attacking lines.

Yevhen Konoplyanka provides a crucial attacking threat in the midfield while Mykhalyk and Khacheridi provide a solid defensive unit; the latter has also weighed in with three goals of his own.

I suspect the greatest difficulty that will face the Ukrainian side will come in the full-back positions, where the quick counter-attacking abilities of Ribery and Nasri could keep them pegged back.


In a similar vein to Portugal, France have been consistent under-performers in recent big tournaments.

Didier Deschamps will have some interesting selections to consider, especially in a defensive unit that conceded two goals against a plucky Belarusian side.

That night he had Gael Clichy in the left back position, a player who looks frightfully short of confidence at this point in time.

Laurent Koscielny has since regained some of his lost composure and will push the central defensive pairing of Sakho and Varane to the wire.

Olivier Giroud will no doubt lead the line ahead of the out of sorts Karim Benzema. Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri will be critical to the counter-attacking game plan that France will look to capitalise on.

Younus Cabaye may adopt a slightly deeper position, making Paul Pogba and Matuidi the likely bets to provide the foundation in the heart of midfield.

The French team will have to become a cohesive unit in order to achieve anything in Kiev.

More than probably any other major side, France is consistently revealed to be a group of extremely talented individuals in the face of stern adversity.

Nasri and Ribery have too often been guilty of getting the ‘old teacups’ out when things are not going their way. This will prove not only a test of their ability, but also their character as a team.

Betting Verdict: DRAW 22/10
The crowd in Kiev will create a cauldron-type atmosphere that will give the Ukrainian team a great deal of confidence. Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka should create reasonable opportunities with their possession. Devic will be their greatest striking threat while Nasri and Ribery keep their flanks nice and honest. France will have their own chances and the form of Giroud and Ribery suggest that their counterattacks should be effective. France will probably emerge the slightly happier of the two teams with the trip to Paris to come.

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