Group D: Ukraine 0 - 2 FranceFri, Jun 15 2012
After severe lightning caused a suspension in play, it was a three minute spell of thunder in the second half from the French that gave them all three points in a straight forward 2-0 win over host nation Ukraine on Friday night.
Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored on the 53rd and 56th minute to see off a poor Ukrainian side that lacked the energy and passion they showed against Sweden in their opening fixture. Laurent Blanc will be happy with the effort shown by his players in the face of criticism from the French media.
The stoppage occurred in the fifth minute of proceedings at the Donbass, home of Shakhtar Donetsk, due to torrential rain and lightning over the stadium. Fifty-five minutes later, after a wonderful effort from the stadium team of grounds men, the pitch was in great condition, whetting the footballing appetites of the vociferous home crowd.
Ukraine lacked the spark that the evening’s weather had, with the only sting in their play coming from the gloves of their goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, who made a couple of good saves. Firstly, he denied a long range Benzema effort, before he was called upon to stop quick winger Jeremy Menez. Menez was set up by Ribery after he pounced on a defensive error by Anatoliy Tymoschuk, and Menez should have lifted his effort but instead hit low and was stopped.
Next up for Pyatov was Phillipe Mexes, who pounced on Samir Nasri’s dead-ball and powered a header into the top corner, only for Pyatov to get his fingers on it and put it wide. Sandwiched between the Pyatov saves was a chance for Ukrainian skipper Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko peeled off Adil Rami, after a long pass from Yehven Selin, volleyed straight at French keeper Hugo Lloris.
The second half began with a bit more excitement than the first. Shevchenko firing over from a distance after a good run, and Menez again threatening Pyatov, who saved well at an angle. Pyatov’s luck ran out however, as eight minutes into the second half after a lovely sweeping move across the pitch, Franck Ribery found that man Menez on the right hand side of the box, he cut in onto his left foot and hit the ball low through a couple of bodies into the bottom corner.
Before Ukraine could re group, they were two nil down. The fantastic Benzema passed the ball into the path of Yohan Cabaye in the box, who spun neatly and slid the ball past Pyatov.
The two goals sucked the life out of the Donbass Arena and Ukraine, and it was nearly three when Cabaye was set up by Ukrainian defender Yehven Selin’s scrappy clearance to volley the ball off the post from 20 yards.
France proceeded to control the game and had a couple more chances from substitute Yann M’Vila and Man of the Match Franck Ribery.
Ukraine disappointed many of their fans in the stadium with the lacklustre performance, fan favourites Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko were uninspiring and substitutes Olexander Aliev and Artem Milevskyi and Marko Devic couldn’t be faulted for effort but never threatened an average French defence.
France are now level on top of Group D with four points. They will play the already eliminated Sweden, whilst England need a draw against host Ukraine to progress.
France: Lloris ©; Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Clichy; Cabaye (M’Vila 67), Diarra, Nasri; Ribery, Benzema (Giroud 75), Menez (Martin 73).
Ukraine: Pyatov; Gusev, Khacheridi, Mikhalik, Selin; Yarmolenko (Aliev 68), Nazarenko (Milevskyi 60), Tymoschuk, Konoplyanka; Shevchenko ©, Voronin (Devic 45).
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)
Man Of The Match: Franck Ribery (France)
Damien Byrne joined the Extratime.ie team for the 2012 season. He is a Dublin based freelance reporter who is partial to a Friday in Richmond Park, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @damienbyrne92