Ukraine welcome France in World Cup play-offs first leg at NSK Olimpijs’kyj in Kiev.
The hosts have been in a better form than the visitors of late, but in the two-legged tie that should not be of big importance.
Thanks to a second-place finish in Group H Ukraine secured their place in the World Cup play-offs, but in order to make it to the next summer’s WC finals in Brazil, the Ukrainians will have to outplay France. The Yellow-Blue are on a eleven-game unbeaten run in all competitions and the confidence is soaring in Mikhail Fomenko’s team ahead of the clash against Les Tricolores. Andriy Shevchenko is no longer part of the Ukrainian national team, but Mikhail Fomenko can count on a number of very talented, but also experienced players who are capable of matching the former world champions. The Eastern European side have a very solid defence and it has to be noted that Ukraine have kept nine consecutive clean sheets. There is no doubt that defence is the key to their success in the two-legged tie with France and the hosts’ main goal in the first leg is to keep a clean sheet.
Seeing that France were grouped with reigning world champions Spain in the World Cup qualifiers, nobody expected that Les Tricolores would secure automatic qualification for the next summer’s tournament which will be hosted by Brazil. Didier Deschamps’ men finished their WC qualifying campaign in second place, three points behind La Roja, and they have been handed a tough draw in the play-offs as they take on in-form Ukraine. Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, who won UEFA best player award, will be the man to watch in the away side as Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been struggling to find his form this term. The Frenchmen are on a three-match winning run ahead of their trip to Kiev, with the team trashing Belarus 4-2, Australia 6-0 and Finland 3-0, but Ukraine will surely pose a much bigger threat for the visitors. Seeing that France have won no more than one of their last five away matches, I do not believe that there is a big value in betting on Didier Deschamps’ men this time out. I think that draw at half time or under 2.5 goals is the best bet on this match.