21:56: And on that note, it is time to sign off. We will be back on Tuesday, when France host Ukraine in the reverse leg, where they will need at least 2 goals to progress. See you then, and, for now, Au Revoir!
21:54: Massive credit must go to Ukraine though, who fully deserved their win. They put in a clinical and disciplined performance today, two things which France lacked.
21:50: Nobody was really a standout performer for France today. Matuidi and Pogba were probably the best 2 players, but generally the performance was not good enough. Ukraine limited Les Bleus to half-chances, and the front 3 of Remy, Giroud and Ribery did not really click. Nasri was a letdown, and I can’t help but think Valbuena would have been a better choice.
21:45: FULL TIME: Ukraine 2-0 France. An absolutely devastating day for France, their hopes of qualification for Brazil depend on a good performance in the second leg… Ukraine deserved the win – France didn’t really show up, and they will need a very good performance at home to get them out of this mess.
21:42: RED CARD: Kucher sent off for Ukraine for a second yellow card. He will miss the second leg, and he looks distraught.
21:40: Ukraine almost score a third, but Lloris is out quickly to save the shot. Game almost over…
21:38: RED CARD: Laurent Koscielny. Bad to worse for France, as Koscielny is sent off with a straight red card.
21:35: Ribery wins a corner… and Ukraine break! They have 3vs1, but Debuchy clears.
21:33: France really have to dig deep now. They surely need a goal to realistically have a good chance of getting through. Can they get one? They are doing everything they can to score…
21:30: GOAL: Ukraine 2-0 France. Yarmolenko buries the penalty, and France are 2-0 down. Penalty decision debatable, Koscielny adjudged to have fouled Zozulya, but nothing wrong with the penalty itself, which flies into the back of the net off of the crossbar. France in serious trouble.
21:29: PENALTY: Ukraine have a penalty…
21:27: Close: Koscielny has a good chance to level for France, but he cannot guide his header on target.
21:25: Close: Ribery has space on the edge of the box for the first time today, but his shot is deflected and Pyatov makes an easy save down to his right.
21:23: Ukraine appeal for a penalty as Abidal appears to take Zozulya down in the penalty box, but the referee did not see enough contact to give the decision. If he had given it, Abidal would have been off and Ukraine likely 2-0 up…
21:20: Aside from that Nasri chance, France have not really threatened since that Ukraine goal. The latest attack sees Benzema caught offside by the linesman.
21:18: Substitutions: Benzema and Sissoko on for Giroud and Remy respectively. Deschamps knows his team need a goal.
21:15: As I said at half time, if this game ends 1-0, France will be leaving a lot for the return leg. If they want to progress without penalties, they will have to win by 2.
21:12: Close: France almost hit back immediately, as Giroud sends Nasri though on goal. He really should score, but his shot is tame and straight at Pyatov.
21:08: GOAL: Ukaine 1-0 France. Zozulya opens the scoring for Ukraine! He is put through on goal by Edmar, about 5 yards out, and just squeezes his shot under a despairing Hugo Lloris. France are rocked.
21:07: Matuidi whips in a great cross from the left wing, but neither Giroud nor Remy can get on the end of it. Decent opening for Les Bleus there.
21:04: Close: Probably the closest France have come so far today, as Pogba tries to find Remy over the top of the Ukrainian defence. The ball is just too high for him though, but any contact would seriously have troubled Pyatov.
21:00: Very dangerous free kick here for France… Ribery over it… but it’s blocked by the wall. The ball eventually goes out for a France corner, but that too is cleared. France pressing, but they lack the cutting edge.
20:57: Ribery finds two men opposite him, but still manages to win a corner… but it’s a poor delivery and once again Pyatov claims comfortably.
20:53: Lively start by Giroud to this second half. First, he wins a free kick, and then manages to get his head on the end of it, but his header is right at Pyatov.
20:50: KICK OFF: We are back underway in Kiev!
20:48: The stadium announcer here in Ukraine is doing a great job at getting the crowd up for the second half – the stadium is really rocking now. The fans know that their team needs their support to overcome Les Bleus.
20:46: If the result stays as it is, France will probably feel confident going into the return leg on Tuesday. However, if Ukraine score and win 1-0, France will probably need to win by at least 2 goals to progress.
20:43: Top Performers: Ukraine: Yarmolenko. The right midfielder has been behind everything good for Ukraine. He has been a big threat down the right, providing crosses that led to Ukraine’s two best chances, and is also tracking back tirelessly to deal with the threat of Franck Ribery.
20:40: Top Performers: France: Paul Pogba / Blaise Matuidi. The two defensive midfielders have been France’s best players so far today. They have broken up most of Ukraine’s attacks and have stopped the home side getting at Les Bleus’ weakened defence for the most part.
20:35: HALF TIME: Ukraine 0-0 France. A chance with few chances comes to an end. Second half will be crucial.
20:34: Yellow card: Giroud picks up a yellow card from a silly late challenge. He has been frustrated in this first half.
20:33: Ukraine are doing extremely well to mark Ribery so far. Right winger Yarmolenko is tracking back whenever he has the ball, and the French star has been relatively quiet so far.
20:28: Close: The best chance of the game so far falls to Konoplyanka. He has a shot from the edge of the box, which looks to be heading in, but Debuchy manages to block brilliantly.
20:25: Yellow Card: Shevchuk goes into the book for a challenge on Remy. France may look to exploit that now. That booking means if Ukraine
20:24: France almost hit Ukraine on the break after Pogba’s good work, but Nasri’s pass for Ribery is just too long, and Pyatov collects in the Ukranian goal. This game is suddenly opening up.
20:22: Ukraine pressing now. Yarmolenko deceives Nasri on the right, before sending in a cross that finds Konoplyanka on the back post. His shot on goal is well blocked by Debuchy though.
20:19: Close: Ukraine have the best chance of the match so far! A cross comes in from the right, and Edmar gets his head on it ahead of Koscielny, but the ball flies just wide of the post!
20:16: Giroud sends a very good knockdown towards Loic Remy, but Remy can’t quite get past his man and the chance is gone. S
20:13: Good chance now for Ukraine, as a cross comes in from out wide in towards Zozulya, but Pogba does just enough to distract the striker and Zozulya misses the ball completely.
20:10: Matuidi and Pogba are doing a great job of mopping up for France in midfield, the former in particular has been very impressive so far today.
20:08: Ukraine’s centre back, yes centre back, Khacheridi, tries a shot from all of 40 yards. Safe to say it had more chance of troubling Row Z than Hugo Lloris…
20:05: Close: France almost open the scoring! Ribery gallops down the left, right into the penalty box, but his cutback for Giroud does not quite find his man. France beginning to exert pressure now.
20:02: Better now from France, as they have a small period of possession. It comes to an end, though, when Pogba attempts an ambitious shot from distance which is easily dealt with.
20:00: Giroud’s turn to give the ball away cheaply now. It’s not sticking for France, and Ukraine are looking solid at the back. Remember, they have not conceded in the last 7 games they have played.
19:57: Patrice Evra is a lucky man here to avoid a yellow card. He cynically hacks down Shevchuk from behind, but escapes a booking from the referee.
19:55: Yarmolenko has a decent chance to shoot at Hugo Lloris’ goal, with a left-footed shot from the right hand side of the box, but the shot is tame and the French ‘keeper gathers easily.
19:52: Understandably, a cagey start in Ukraine. Both sides looking cautious – an early goal could do serious damage here.
19:48: KICK OFF: We are underway in Kiev!
19:43: Just 5 minutes to go until kick-off now… The teams are walking out onto the pitch. National anthems on their way.
19:37: The pre-match speculation about the French team seemed to suggest that Yohan Cabaye would be starting today in place of Samir Nasri, but the Manchester City player was preferred. Perhaps Deschamps wanted some more creativity in the centre of the park, after all an away goal is crucial in this tie.
19:34: Stat Attack: Having said that, Les Bleus may find a goal hard to come by, if Ukraine’s form in the group stages is anything to go by. According to OptaJean, only Spain conceded less goals than Ukraine in the group stage. Ukraine conceded just 4 goals in their 10 games.
19:28: So, what would be a decent result for Les Bleus in Ukraine? Well, considering this is like a Champions League knockout tie and away goals are crucial, France would be in pole position if they came out with a score-draw or better. Anything less than that and a Ukraine goal in the away leg would be a serious problem…
19:22: Tactics: It is interesting to see that both sides have set up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. France have plenty of quality in midfield, and Giroud has been in decent form for Arsenal this season, so they certainly carry a goal threat. The French defence must be careful of Yarmolenko though, he is the heartbeat of this Ukrainian side.
19:20: TEAMS: France team vs Ukraine: Lloris (c) – Debuchy, Koscielny, Abidal, Evra – Matuidi, Pogba – Remy, Nasri, Ribery – Giroud.
19:18: TEAMS: Ukraine team vs France: Pyatov – Fedetskyi, Khacheridi, Rakitskyi, Shevchuk – Tymoschuk, Rotan – Yarmolenko, Edmar, Konoplyanka – Zozulya.
19:15: Hello everyone, today is a very important day for French football. Les Bleus take on Ukraine in the first leg of their play-off match, which will decide which of the two teams will be on the plane to Brazil next summer. With just 30 minutes to go until kick-off, the nerves are beginning to jangle… Let’s start with some team news!