KIEV (Reuters) - No team has ever overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit in a European World Cup playoff yet France coach Didier Deschamps believes his team can turn the tide despite a lousy start in their tie against Ukraine.
“It was just the first step. There is a second step,” Deschamps told a news conference after Les Bleus slumped to a 2-0 away defeat on Friday.
France had the upper hand at Euro 2012 when they beat hosts Ukraine 2-0 in the group phase, but over a year later the wheel seems to have turned in spectacular fashion.
Ukraine were the most physical side and Deschamps felt it went over the top on occasions.
“We struggled because they put a lot of commitment into the game,” he said.
“They committed a lot of fouls, they were very aggressive.”
Ukraine coach Mykhailo Fomenko said before the game he had a “recipe” for victory and one of the ingredients was clearly to man-mark Franck Ribery, who was a shadow of his usually brilliant self.
“Obviously he was under great scrutiny,” a stunned-looking Deschamps said.
The France coach, who skippered Les Bleus to their 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 titles, refused though to surrender halfway through the tie.
“I want the fans to believe in our team because we still have a second game to play,” he said, hoping the often fickle Stade de France crowd gets behind his men on Tuesday.
Ukraine will be without two of their defenders in the return leg with Oleksandr Kucher and Artem Fedetskiy missing through suspension.
“We have to make another recipe for the second game in Paris as this one is no longer valid,” Fomenko said, well aware that France will have to be more eager than on Friday.
“It would be great to go to Brazil but we need to wait a bit.”
The odds could have been looking better for France had Samir Nasri not fired a tame shot at keeper Andriy Pyatov four minutes after Roman Zozulia had opened the scoring on the hour. Andriy Yarmolenko’s 82nd minute penalty increased Ukraine’s lead before France’s Laurent Koscielny and Kucher were sent off late on.
“I have regrets because I think I could have flicked the ball in,” Manchester City midfielder Nasri told reporters.
“It’s tough but there is a return leg on Tuesday. We will be more aggressive.
“We will have to score very early in the game.”
France have qualified for every major tournament since missing out on the 1994 World Cup.
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Meadows