France have again left it to the last minute to qualify for a World Cup, this time overcoming a first leg deficit to beat Ukraine 3-0 in Paris.
Les Bleus, like they did against the Republic of Ireland in 2009 for South Africa 2010, produced a late show to book their spot at Brazil 2014 courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate victory over the Ukrainians who had led 2-0 after the first leg in Kiev on Friday.
France were under plenty of pressure from supporters leading into the return bout but Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho eased their fears when he fired home from close range in the 22nd minute after Franck Ribery’s initial effort had been blocked.
Just over 10 minutes later, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema allowed France to draw level at 2-2 overall when he side-footed home despite appearing offside when the ball fell his way off Mathieu Valbuena’s chest.
With the tie evenly poised, Ukraine’s Yevhen Khacheridi was given his marching orders early in the second half for a second bookable offence before Didier Deschamps’ side managed to hit the front with a little under 20 minutes remaining.
The goal was slightly fortuitous with Ribery’s well-struck shot deflecting in off substitute Oleg Gusev who was being shadowed by Sakho at the far post.
Nevertheless, the result went the way of the French who will now be competing in their 14th World Cup and fifth-straight since 1998.
2014 World Cup UEFA playoff
France: 3 (Mamadou Sakho 22’, Karim Benzema 34’, Oleg Gusev (og) 72’) *France wins 3-2 on aggregate
Ukraine: 0 (red card: Yevhen Khacheridi 47’)
Stade de France, Paris, France
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