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France vs Ukraine: 2nd Leg

22:10: And now, it is time for me to sign off, after a wonderful day for French Football. ‘Les Bleus’ are going to Brazil, after a stirring comeback against a strong Ukrainian side, and you have to say they deserve it based on their performance today. So, until next time, Au Revoir!

22:05: Valbuena, Ribery and Pogba were the star performers aside from the goal scorers for me.  Valbuena and Ribery caused havoc in the Ukrainian defence all day long, a defence which had kept 8 consecutive clean sheets, while Pogba absolutely dominated the midfield, winning probably the most important battle on the pitch.

22:00: Stunning performance from Les Bleus today. They were written off, but Deschamps made them believe. Wrong team selection in the first leg, but perfect in the second leg. Sakho and Benzema the heroes, but everyone deserves massive credit, including the manager. Brilliant day for French Football all round.

21:54: FULL TIME: France 3-0 Ukraine (3-2 Aggregate). What a turnaround from Les Bleus! They have made history today, and they are on the plane to Brazil!

21:53: Lloris saves the last chance, a 30 harder by Rakitsky, and surely it is time up…

21:50: ADDED TIME: 3 minutes added by the 4th official. France just running down the clock in the corner now. The stadium is rocking and the fans are in full voice.

21:47: Ukraine have a free-kick in a dangerous position, but Lloris is eventually able to collect. Ukraine pressing more now, as you would expect.

21:45: Close: What a save from Pyatov in the Ukraine goal! Giroud thinks he has put France on the plane to Brazil, but Pyatov pulls off a world class save to deny him. Into the last 5 minutes here.

21:40: Close: Ribery almost puts this game beyond doubt, after he brilliantly passes two players with dummies but clears the crossbar with his shot.

21:38: Small dilemma now for France, do they go for the kill or hold what they have? Sagna is on for Debuchy, and that suggests the latter…

21:35: On second viewing that may have been an own goal by the new man Gusev, but Les Bleus will not care one bit. They are going through as it stands!

21:33: GOAL: France 3-0 Ukraine (Sakho). It’s Mamadou Sakho again!!! The Liverpool defender finishes well after Evra’s shot falls to him! Perhaps fortuitous again for Les Bleus, but take nothing away from the finish from Sakho. For a centre back to react so quickly was very impressive.

21:30: Close: Ukraine come close now! After a number of deflections, the ball falls to Zozulya, who cannot quite direct it past Lloris, who gathers gratefully.

21:27: Yellow Cards: Full backs Debuchy and Evra both booked in quick succession for very poor challenges. France must be careful to maintain their numerical advantage.

21:24: Close: Debuchy lets fly from the edge of the box on the volley with his left foot, but it flies just wide. It would have been spectacular had it gone in, but it remains 2-0.

21:22: Matuidi has another decent chance, this one a bit harder as he is under pressure, but he cannot finish it as he loses control of the ball.

21:20: France trying to force it to much after the sending off, they must be patient to exploit the numerical advantage, and the crowd must not start to get frustrated. There is still plenty of time left in the game.

21:18: Close: Benzema has a brilliant chance to score, but his left footed shot flies over when he had only Pyatov to beat. Disappointing from the Real Madrid star.

21:16: Ukraine have had a jiggle at the back after the red card, but they will have some serious work to do to contain Ribery and co.

21:14: Corner to France… Valbuena eventually pulls it back for Cabaye, but his shot is always rising and clears the crossbar comfortably.

21:12: Close: Matuidi has a decent chance to score and put France in front on aggregate, but his shot is wild and off target. France really pressing the away side now.

21:09: You would really expect France to go on and qualify now… They have the man advantage, and the home advantage. The only thing that could set them back is an away goal, so they have to be wary of the counter.

21:07: RED CARD: Wow, what a start for France! Khacheridi is given a second yellow for a cynical foul on Franck Ribery, and you have to say that was a very stupid challenge from the centre back – he was already on a yellow…

21:05: KICK OFF: We are back underway!

21:00: If France get the next goal, I reckon they will almost certainly go through. Even if Ukraine score, France will only need just 1 goal to reverse the outcome. If the score stays the same, though, we are heading for extra time and penalties.

20:55: Man of the half: Mathieu Valbuena. The little man has been behind everything good for France so far today. As well as providing the assist for Benzema’s goal, he has been a constant threat to the Ukranian defence with his footwork and passing ability. Really makes Deschamps decision to play Nasri in the first leg even more confusing…

20:50: HALF TIME: France 2-0 Ukraine (2-2 Aggregate). Les Bleus will be delighted with that half!

20:48: Close: Debuchy blocks Yarmolenko’s shot on the line after it passed Hugo Lloris. Great defending from the Newcastle man. Ukraine’s only threat is coming from set pieces at the moment.

20:45: Yellow Card: Goalscorer Sakho goes into the book for a silly offence. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to bite.

20:41: We are nearing half time now, and France currently comfortably dominating possession. Les Bleus will be absolutely delighted with this start – Ukraine haven’t even had a chance of note so far…

20:39: On second viewing, Valbuena did extremely well to chest the ball down for Benzema to strike first time. It could be called lucky, it could be called brilliance…

20:35: GOAL: France 2-0 Ukraine (Benzema). France are level on aggregate! Benzema, who was wrongly given offside just minutes earlier, scores to put France 2-0 up. It’s another scrappy one, the ball falls right to him after a lucky deflection, but Les Bleus definitely deserve it. Decent finish from the Real Madrid man as well. Brilliant recovery so far.

20:33: Valbuena is so unlucky here! He sends in a brilliant shot from outside the box, and it is heading into the top left corner, but Pyatov saves it brilliantly! France pushing hard now.

20:30: I have to say that Valbuena has been excellent so far today. A complete contrast to Nasri on Friday, Valbuena is energetic and does everything to get into the game.

20:26: France are in a decent position now. Just 1 goal needed to force extra time, and at this rate it looks easily possible. Pogba just wastes a decent chance by blazing over when he really should have hit the target.

20:23: GOAL: France 1-0 Ukraine (Sakho). France with a dangerous free-kick… and it’s a goal!! Sakho scores for Les Bleus and it is game on! First international goal for Sakho, and what a time to score it. It was a bit scruffy, but France will not care! The Stade de France is absolutely rocking.

20:20: Ukraine have a succession of corners, but nothing comes from them and France can clear. Benzema loses the ball on the counter though, and the attack breaks down.

20:16: STAT ATTACK: France with 62% possession so far, but nothing to show for it. Ukraine just starting to get a foothold in this game as well.

20:13: Ukraine just cannot keep the ball at the moment, France are pressing extremely well. You’d think that they cannot keep wasting chances though, one of these has to go in soon…

20:10: Close: Pogba has a very good chance from a header from a corner, but blazes his effort over. Soon afterwards, Benzema heads over from a similar position after a free-kick from the right. France dominant in the early exchanges.

20:07: Yellow Card: Rotan already in the book, after challenging Ribery strongly.

20:04: Close: How unlucky for France! First, Benzema delivers a brilliant ball across the box, which nobody gets on the end of, and then Valbuena has a shot brilliantly saved by Pyatov! Les Bleus on top here.

20:03: Absolutely brilliant atmosphere in the Stade de France! The fans know that their team needs them, and they are responding resoundingly. France starting very brightly.

20:00: KICK OFF: We are underway! Allez Les Bleus!

19:58: The national anthems are underway… the tension is building. The teams are in their halves, doing some last minute stretches, and kick-off is looming.

19:55: We are now within 5 minutes of kick-off! The Stade de France is filling up, and the  fans look up for this match, even if it is in hope rather than expectation. Les Bleus have a massive task ahead of them, but it is by no means impossible.

19:52: As you may remember, Ukraine did a brilliant job taking Ribery out of the game in Keiv – they always had at least 2 men on him. However, Deschamps sees this as an opportunity to exploit other areas. He says: ‘Ukraine had 3-4 people marking Ribery last game constantly. We will take advantage of that.’ Well, let’s hope Les Bleus can do just that.

19:48: STAT ATTACK: Remember, Ukraine have one of the best defences in Europe, at least according to the statistics. After Friday’s game, they have now gone 8 games in a row without conceding a goal! As if that was not enough, they are unbeaten in their last 6 away games. Don’t give up all hope though… Guess who the last team was to score 1+ goals against Ukraine… Yep, it was France. (OptaJean)

19:40: Just 20 minutes to go now until kick-off. You have to think that France must keep a clean sheet. Because of away goals, if Ukraine score today France will need at least 4 to go through. An early goal would do nicely as well for Les Bleus – it would take some of the pressure off of them.

19:37: TEAM NEWS: On the other hand, Ukraine make only 2 changes to the side that won so impressively in Kiev on Friday. Mandzyuk comes in for Fedetskyi, while Bezus is in for Tymoschuk. Clearly a case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

19:35: Formation: We also see a change in formation by Les Bleus for tonight’s game. Last time out, they played a 4-2-3-1 formation, but now they are looking to play a 4-3-3 style formation, with Pogba, Matuidi and Cabaye as the 3 midfielders.

19:32: TEAM NEWS: So, as expected, Deschamps has made some radical changes from Friday’s game. The centre back partnership of Koscielny and Abidal is changed completely, with Varane and Sakho coming in. In other news, Benzema comes in for Giroud, while Valbuena and Cabaye come in for Remy and Nasri. Only 6 players keep their place.

19:30: Ukraine team vs France: Pyatov, Mandzyuk, Khacheridi, Rakitsky, Shevchuk, Bezus, Edmar, Rotan, Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka, Zozulya.

19:28: France team vs Ukraine: Lloris, Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra, Pogba, Matuidi, Cabaye, Valbuena, Benzema, Ribery

19:25: Welcome back everyone. Today is a huge day for French football. France take on Ukraine for a place in the 2014 world cup in Brazil, but they will have to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. Can they do it? Of course they can! Team news coming up…

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