Monday, October 21, 2013

Les Bleus escape the big fish, but no cake walk

So Les Bleus seem to get the best draw possible. Ukraine is only one spot ahead of France in the FIFA World rankings - France at 21 and Ukraine at 20. So this should be a match up of close to even squads.  The draws:

Portugal v Sweden
Ukraine v France
Greece v Romania
Iceland v Croatia
The away match at Ukraine on the 15th of November and 4 days later back in Paris. Ukraine is not to be underestimated, granted Les Bleus have had some success against the former Soviet satellite, most notably a victory in Ukraine at the last Euro. 

Not a shocker, but the away fixture will be huge for France. They need to go out and look not only for a win, but to score more than one road goal. I do not want to see a replay of what happened 4 years ago when they went away to Ireland and got the away goal, but gave back that goal at home. We all know that it was the "hand of frog" that then saw Les Bleus go through to the World Cup. If this fixture returns to Paris even I would be a little nervous. While France has shown some good form the past three matches, the stakes are much greater with these two matches. Let us see how far they have come.

I still think that the French midfield will be too much for Ukraine. With Ribery's current form I believe it should be too much for Ukraine to handle. Couple this with a resurgent Nasri and Valbuena and the attacking trio should be more than Ukraine can handle. The key will hinge around Pogba and Cabaye, if they can slow down any Ukrainian counter attacks while bringing an added offensive punch - see Cabaye's weekend goal for Newcastle - then I think that will be too much for Ukraine. However, let us not forget that Ukraine drew twice with England during the qualifications and could have gone through directly to Brazil (imagine if it were an England v France Ukraine will not be afraid of where they are and will give Les Bleus all they can handle. Prediction - France go through 3-1 on aggregate. Win 2-0 away and draw 1-1 at home.

As for the other match ups.

Portugal v Sweden - The match up of the draw. Zlatan vs Ronaldo. It will be a shame that both will not be a the World Cup. But something tells me the big PSG striker will will his nation and his ego to get to the World Cup. Sweden go through 5-4 in aggregate.

Greece v Romania - Blah. Not really a wonderful match up of attacking football. Greece will get through on PKs after both matches end 0-0.

Iceland v Croatia - I cannot see the start ups from Iceland getting through, although it would be nice. But Croatia has too much creativity to stumble on Iceland. Croatia go through 5-0.

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