French musketeers in thrilling World Cup rally

Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:35pm EST
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - France came back from the brink to overcome 10-man Ukraine 3-0 in a thrilling playoff return match and qualify for the 2014 World Cup with a 3-2 aggregate victory on Tuesday.

Oleg Gusev put through his own net in the 72nd minute after Mamadou Sakho had put Les Bleus ahead with his first international goal in the 22nd and Karim Benzema was on target 12 minutes later.

Ukraine, who won the first leg in Kiev 2-0 on Friday, were reduced to 10 men when Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off for a second bookable offence two minutes into the second half.

It was Ukraine's fourth failed attempt at qualifying for the finals via the playoffs after also missing out in 1998, 2002 and 2010.

"It's the magic of football. Four days ago we were bad, very bad," France coach Didier Deschamps told TF1 TV.

"It was a great, great game. It was important for French football to be in Brazil next year - when we've got all the ingredients we can do great things."

Striker Olivier Giroud stole the public address announcer's microphone after the game to sing 'La Marseillaise' with the delighted crowd.

"We showed we are a great team. If we play like this we can go far," said Benzema.   Continued...

France's soccer team players celebrate after Ukraine's Oleg Guslev (unseen) scored an own goal during their 2014 World Cup qualifying second leg playoff soccer match against Ukraine at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes