The odds were stacked against them, but France came back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 on aggregate over Ukraine. This is the fifth straight World Cup France has advanced to, second in a playoff, after missing out in 1990 and 1994.
Mamadou Sakho opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, picking up a rebound just a yard off the goal-line and beating Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov who had relatively no chance.
Karim Benzema thought he had put the hosts level on aggregate shortly after, however his goal was called back due to offside. Replays showed Benzema was infact in an onside position when the ball was played and the goal should have stood. But just five minutes later, karma played out as Benzema found the back of the net again, taking a chested pass from Mathieu Valbuena and firing into the goal. This time on the replay, Benzema was in a clear offside position, almost a full yard past the second last Ukraine defender, and the goal stood. (see for a comparison http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/controversy-not-really-benzema-involved-in-2-offside-decisions-for-france-v-ukraine-which-evened-themselves-out/ ). This was one of the most obvious offside goals that was given since the famous Juventus goal vs Inter Milan scored by Arturo Vidal, where Kwadwo Asamoah was over a yard offside on the initial pass, which lead to the goal (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvchzejil6g ). Fortunately, Benzema got his goal and after 45 minutes the score line was level on aggregate at 2.
Things went from bad to worse for Ukraine in the 2nd half, as Yevhen Khacheridi was shown a 2nd yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Franck Ribery. The red card came at just the 47th minute of the game, and Ukraine had to play the rest of the match with 10 men, which would feel like an eternity.
France sent everything towards Pyatov, who had a tough task trying to organize his defenders who were out of position many times. Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye commanded the midfield as France seemed destined to find a winner before 90 minutes.
That winner would come before France began to feel added pressure, as the home side would seal their qualification on an own goal by substitute Oleg Gusev in the 71st minute with Sakho providing pressure from behind. After glancing at countless replays, it appears the ball actually deflects off the knee of Sakho, who should have been awarded his second goal of the match. Sakho’s celebration would defend that as the entire France team chased him to the corner flag. The Liverpool defender almost took his shirt off as well but smartly decided against that because he was already on a yellow card, and one more would have suspended him for France’s first group stage game in Brazil.
This was more than getting to the World Cup for France, it was a massive achievement for Juventus and Pogba as well. Pogba is one of the world’s best up and coming talents and what better than the World Cup to show them off on the game’s biggest stage. Pogba has been in transfer rumours in recent months due to his strong play, and it’s a sure thing that the World Cup next summer will drive up Pogba’s value if Juventus decide to sell. With France advancing to the World Cup in yet another exciting playoff, just like they did vs Ireland in 2009, France will be a team other’s will try to avoid as the strongest in Pot 3 on December 6th.