France World Cup chances take hit with Ukraine loss

Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:01pm EST
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By Igor Nitsak

KIEV (Reuters) - Lackluster France faced the embarrassing prospect of missing out on a major tournament for the first time in 20 years when they lost 2-0 away to Ukraine in the first leg of their World Cup playoff tie on Friday.

Each team picked up a red card as Les Bleus, who last missed a major competition when they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals, succumbed to Roman Zozulia's goal shortly after the hour and Andriy Yarmolenko's 82nd minute penalty.

France's Laurent Koscielny and the home side's Oleksandr Kucher were sent off in injury time ahead of the return leg at the Stade de France on Tuesday when Ukraine will start as favorites to secure their second World Cup appearance.

France - World Cup winners in 1998 - barely had a chance apart from a Samir Nasri effort and were shaken throughout by a bold Ukraine side, who reached the quarter-finals in 2006.

"Opening the scoring gave them more strength and we made a mistake on the penalty," France coach Didier Deschamps lamented.

"It's obviously a very bad result. We have to believe (we can go through) but Ukraine are the team in the best position to qualify," he added in an on-pitch interview with French TV channel TF1.

"We still have 90 minutes at home."

Deschamps, on the pitch when the red-faced Les Bleus failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup after a 2-1 last-minute defeat against Bulgaria in 1993, had opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Olivier Giroud up front and Karim Benzema on the bench.   Continued...

France's Franck Ribery (front) walks after Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates his goal with team mates (back) during the 2014 World Cup qualifying first leg playoff soccer match at the Olympic stadium in Kiev November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich