SHARE
COPY LINK

WORLD CUP

France to face Ukraine in World Cup play-off

France must overcome Ukraine in a two-legged play off in order to book their place at the World Cup in Brazil. Didier Deschamps side were pitted against the Ukranians in the European play-off draw in Switzerland on Monday.

France to face Ukraine in World Cup play-off
Photo: Vanderlei Almeida / AFP

Continental giants Portugal and Sweden were drawn together in the pick of the World Cup qualifying play-offs in Europe made by football's governing body FIFA on Monday.

Former champions France were given a favourable pairing as they travel to Ukraine for the first leg on November 15 while Greece will host Romania and Croatia play their first leg in Iceland.

Former World Cup semi-finalists Portugal and Sweden were the first two countries pulled out of the hat as Cristiano Ronaldo will defy Zlatan Ibrahimovic in what will be a battle of star-studded line-ups.

Didier Deschamps' French side, who were narrowly beaten to top spot in their pool by defending champions Spain, travel to the Euro 2012 co-hosts where they defeated Ukraine 2-0 in group play

"We were not seeded and could have played Portugal or Croatia who have a long history, but Ukraine is not a simple draw either," Deschamps told Eurosport tv.

"They are on a run of seven matches without defeat and they concede very few goals as well as a long trip over there," he continued.

"It's good to have the return leg at home but one team will qualify and the other will be staying home for the World Cup.

"We have to have a lot of confidence and respect the opposition," added the 1998 World Cup winning captain.

The return leg will be played on November 19.

Ukraine's key player Artem Fedetsky of Dnepropetrovsk believes in his side's chances despite a tough draw.

"We've already been buried after the poor start in the qualifying campaign.

"However, we managed to come back and reach the play-off stage. After that every single match for us was like the final, like a do-or-die mission.

"Now we have serious experience of playing the most important matches. We are a cohesive team now and, I believe, we have fair chances to go through," he added.

Deschamps will be counting on his side sealing their Brazil berth in less controversial fashion than they did their ticket to South Africa.

France owed their appearance at what was to prove a disastrous 2010 World Cup to a play-off success over the Republic of Ireland, with a little help from Thierry Henry's hand.

Henry admitted to deliberately handling the ball to set up William Gallas's decisive goal to seal France's presence in South Africa, as shown in this video.

France's build up to the all important play-off match has been hit by controversy after left back Patrice Evra slammed French TV pundits, including French World Cup winner Bicente Lizarazu for being "parasites" and "tramps".

"There are some pundits with whom I will soon settle my differences with them… they want to sell a lie to the French people that Evra is disliked. But that is not the case at all.

"I do not know what Lizarazu has against me. Me I was twice voted best left-back in the world, four times the best left-back in the Premier League.

"Him I don't even know if he was ever voted best left-back in the world.

"I recall my first call-up to the national side, all the others shook my hand apart from him. Thierry Henry said to him 'Oh Liza, here is the opposition'. And Lizarazu looked at me and said 'Why? Someone told you that I was already retired?'

"People have a good impression of me, it won't be these tramps who dirty my image. They must stop lying to the French people," said the Senegal-born defender, who then classed them as parasites.

Evra has since been summoned  to explain his comments to the French FA.

Romania are bidding to return to the final stages for the first time since 1998 and will fancy their chances against goal-shy Greece, who were beaten to top spot in their pool by Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Finally, Iceland look to qualify for the first time in their history against a Croatia side coming off back to back defeats against Scotland and in the midst of a managerial change.

The four winners will qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil from June 12 to July 13.

The draw for the eight groups of four that will feature in the first round of the tournament will take place on December 6 in Bahia, Brazil.

Teams already qualified include Brazil (hosts), Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, England, Russia, Bosnia, Japan, Australia, Iran, South Korea, United States, ayCosta Rica, Honduras.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

SHOW COMMENTS