France coach Didier Deschamps has urged his players to display "flair and fantasy" as they aim to revive their FIFA World Cup dream following Friday's 2-0 loss to play-off rivals Ukraine.
Andriy Yarmolenko struck a late penalty to add to Roman Zozulya's opening strike as Mikhail Fomenko's men built a healthy advantage at the halfway stage of the tie. No team has overturned a two-goal deficit in a World Cup play-off before, but Deschamps is hopeful his side can buck that trend when Ukraine visit the Stade de France on Tuesday.
"We need to give everything to produce an outstanding performance and go through," said the France coach. "That will undoubtedly include the necessary flair and fantasy to turn the situation around. We were surprised by a team who played to their full potential, whereas we delivered an average performance. We're now totally focused on the second leg. Ukraine won't come here just to keep it tight. It will be a dogfight with a team that enjoys that."
France's prospects could also depend on how Deschamps sets his troops up. With Laurent Koscielny suspended following his red card in the opener, and Raphaël Varane a doubt with a knee complaint, Les Bleus have only left-footed duo Mamadou Sakho and Éric Abidal available in central defence. Deschamps has nonetheless hinted that he could switch Bacary Sagna from right-back. "He has already played as a centre-back," the 45-year-old explained.
Further forward, Mathieu Valbuena could replace Samir Nasri, while Karim Benzema may come in for Loïc Rémy. Deschamps might also be tempted to switch from 4-2-1-3 to 4-3-3, with Yohan Cabaye coming in to partner Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, and Benzema starting on the right alongside Olivier Giroud at the tip of the formation.
One player eager to shine whatever the strategy is Franck Ribéry, the 2013 UEFA Best Player in Europe having been kept quiet in Kyiv. "I'm not alone on the pitch," commented the FC Bayern München winger. "I rely on my team-mates to help and we will make the difference together. I think we can do it. We have the ability. We'll also need the fans behind us."
Ukraine will be without the suspended Olexandr Kucher and Artem Fedetskiy, Ribéry's marker on Friday, with Vitaly Mandziuk and Yaroslav Rakitskiy expected to deputise, and the mood is very positive. "The buoyant atmosphere in the team is being transmitted to everyone," said assistant coach Olexandr Zavarov. "The guys are dreaming of playing in the World Cup, and that is the best energy boost there is. Whoever plays on Tuesday, we are aiming only for a win."
Friday's success meant an eighth successive international clean sheet for goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov — and a record 730 minutes without conceding for Ukraine — while Yarmolenko's 14th goal moved him up to third in his nation's all-time standings, behind Andriy Shevchenko (48) and Serhiy Rebrov (15). However, he is in no hurry to make it to second place. "We need to be solid at the back in France above all," Yarmolenko explained. "If we score it'll be even better, but it doesn't matter who is on target."
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