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France face crucial Ukraine World Cup playoff

© AFP: Ukraine's Yarmolenko and France's Ribéry

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-15

France’s playoff match against Ukraine in Kiev on Friday will be played in the shadow of the disastrous 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bulgaria 20 years ago, that saw Les Bleus (the French national team) eliminated from the World Cup.

France need to play fearlessly and ignore the ghosts of the past as they travel to Kiev to face Ukraine in Friday’s World Cup playoffs.

A 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bulgaria on November 17, 1993, that saw Les Bleus eliminated from the World Cup – the last time this has happened to the French side – is still a raw wound.

And Thierry Henri’s infamous handball that saw off Ireland four years ago was a far-from-noble performance that marred France’s morale and reputation.

"We need a good away result so we can deal with the return leg," Franck Ribéry, who has scored six and set up nine of France's last 24 goals, told reporters. "These (playoff) games are special. They're taking place under difficult circumstances. We need to play without pressure. We should not be afraid.”

Perhaps with this history in mind, French team Manager Didier Deschamps, who was in the team that lost to Bulgaria in 1993, had France’s Clairefontaine training centre locked down from Tuesday onwards.

"We must avoid any nerves or anxiety that could damage our performance," he explained.

The younger players, however, are less bothered by the ghosts of that match.

"France v Bulgaria? No, it doesn't remind me of anything," Paul Pogba, who was eight months old when David Ginola's poor free kick led to Kostadinov's goal, told Reuters.

"I don't think about it for a minute," added midfielder Blaise Matuidi.

Ukraine ‘have the recipe’ to win

Ukraine will also be focusing on the present and forgetting the past as they face their fourth World Cup playoff tie, having failed in their three previous attempts.

"We are trying to keep our players away from the past. To know the reasons for those failures, you had to be there," Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomenko told reporters.

Ukraine failed to qualify for the World Cup finals via the playoffs in 1998, 2002 and 2010, being knocked out by Croatia, Germany and Greece respectively.

Eight Ukraine players go into the home game with the threat of missing the return leg in Paris if booked.

"Football gets more and more aggressive, resulting in a good deal of yellow cards in games like this," said Fomenko.

"I discuss this issue with players. But sometimes it is hard to resist your emotions", added Fomenko who says he knows how to defeat France, a team they have never beaten in seven games.

"Of course I have the secret [for success]," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-11-15

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