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France back from the brink against Ukraine

Sun Nov 19

France became the first team to overturn a two-goal deficit in a FIFA World Cup play-off, denying Ukraine a place in Brazil in the process.

France will appear at their ninth successive major tournament next summer after two goals from Mamadou Sakho and one from Karim Benzema completed a memorable comeback in Paris. Yehven Khacheridi's dismissal reduced the visitors to ten men soon after half-time.

With Didier Deschamps making five changes from the side that lost 2-0 in Kiev on Friday, Les Bleus hit the ground running, and Paul Pogba rose to flash a header just over Andriy Piatov's goal from Mathieu Valbuena's corner. On 22 minutes, the Ukraine defence failed to deal with a Valbuena free-kick, and while Pyatov palmed away Franck Ribéry's shot from the edge of the box, Liverpool FC centre-back Sakho was on hand to score his first international goal from the rebound.

That ended a run of eight clean sheets for Mykhailo Fomenko's team, and though Ukraine threatened on the break, France kept pushing upfield, with Pyatov forced to save from Valbuena and Benzema having a goal disallowed. However, the Real Madrid CF man was not to be denied on 34 minutes, registering after Valbuena chested the ball in his direction.

Mathieu Debuchy blocked a powerful Andriy Yarmolenko attempt on the line with half-time approaching, yet it was not a portent of better things to come for Ukraine, with Khacheridi sent off two minutes after the restart for a second bookable offence, a foul on Ribéry. The pressure built and built thereafter until Sakho turned in Ribéry's cross to win the tie.

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