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June 15, 2012
• Donbass Arena, Donets'k
Referee: B. Kuipers
• Attendance: 48000
J. Ménez 53'
Y. Cabaye 56'
Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to follow our coverage of England v Sweden, which kicks off in just over 10 minutes! I'm sure it'll be a cracker, thunderstorm or no thunderstorm!
Full-time! Les Bleus strike twice after lightning storm delay! Jeremy Menez opened the scoring early in the second half before Yohan Cabaye doubled the lead within a few minutes. Ukraine rarely threatened and France deserved their delayed-by-50-minutes victory tonight.
90' + 1'
Devych dives to the floor in front of the referee, who just stares at his ridiculous dive. Two minutes of stoppage time remain of this tie.
Oleg Blokhin has been shaking his head with disappointment on the sidelines. His side have been outclassed and outplayed this evening.
The crowd's booing of France's possession has died down - a sure sign that the crowd have accepted defeat against laurent Blanc's men.
Yevhen Konoplyanka, who has been very quiet this evening, skewers his shot from 15 yards out for a France throw-in near the corner flag. Sort of sums up his night really: a misfire.
Yellow Card Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
Nasri's free-kick is on target but batted away from the top left-hand corner by Pyatov. Good free-kick, good save. Lots of goodness to go around!
No it's France's turn to have a free-kick on the edge of the area, and he-whose-name-gives-me-spelling-nightmares, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, gets a yellow card for his mistimed tackle on Ribery.
Ukraine are trying to pressure the French goal and having a little bit of success. The eastern Europeans have to make the most of their set pieces however, which they have failed to do so far this evening.
When Nasri is in-form, he is a pleasure to watch - the ball practically sticks to his feet!
Aliyev skies the free-kick, a poor attempt in all honesty. Eight minutes until the 90 are up!
Yellow Card Philippe Mexes
Philippe Mexes is the latest France defender to be deservedly booked for a calamitous challenge on the edge of the French box. Can Ukraine score from this lifeline?
Olivier Giroud is referred to as "France's answer to Grant Holt" by the commentator. Ha!
Yellow Card Mathieu Debuchy
Debuchy sees yellow for a clattering challenge on the halfway line. France are just slowly, albeit physically based on that tackle, seeing out this Group D fixture.
Possible new Arsenal signing Olivier Giroud comes on for Karim Benzema. Should be interesting to see he fares on the big stage in these final 15 minutes!
The life has gone from the Ukraine crowd, who are booing their own players whenever they're not in the final third. You get the feeling France have this game wrapped up in a nice, little bow.
Martin scored on his international debut in this very stadium for France last summer - a scorching effort from 30 yards apparently! Chances he'll do the same this evening?!
...but Ribery fires wide for Les Bleus. Marvin Martin comes on for France's opening goalscorer Jeremy Menez.
Tymoshchuk and Khacheridi barges Ribery and France have a free-kick 25 yards out in front of goal...
Marko Devych charges through a few French players then gets greedy 30 yards from goal and shoots instead of slotting Shevchenko in on his right. Selfish from the Ukraine forward.
Our Ukraine expert has seen his wish come true: Oleksandr Aliyev has come on for Ukraine in place of Andriy Yarmolenko.
Yann M'Vila comes on for France's second goalscorer Yohan Cabaye. The Newcastle United midfielder made a terrific contribution to the French lead.
Pyatov just watched as Cabaye's smoothy-struck shot collided with his left post. That would have been a beautiful French goal, but as it stands the eastern Europeans are still hanging in there by the skin on their teeth!
At the other end, Ukraine win a corner but swiftly waste it with a poor delivery from the left wing.
Cabaye denied by the outside of the upright after a splendid two-minute-or-more spell of possession for the French!
Benzema, Nasri, Menez and Ribery are scaring the life out of Ukraine's defenders still. The France front four really are looking menacing. And, as Cabaye showed, Les Bleus have plenty of threat behind those four too!
I imagine France expert Robin Bairner is sitting smug with his 2-0 lead. He says of the second goal: "All a bit too easy for France as they go 2-0 up through Cabaye. Benzema's allowed space outside the box to thread a wonderful pass through to the Newcastle man, whose finish belied the fact he never previously had an international goal to his name. Cabaye's run was pretty simple, though, and Ukraine should have done more to prevent this goal both at source and at it's conclusion."
Ribery charges forwards and wins a corner at Ukraine's expense. If France can get a third then Blokhin's men will surely have no way back into the tie.
Ukraine expert Michael Yokhin says of that second goal: "Where were Khacheridi and Mykhalyk when Cabaye scored the second? All the defensive problems are cruelly exposed at the start of the second half, and even brilliant Pyatov can't save Ukraine this time. Much better play needed in midfield now, if there is any chance of a comeback. Should Oleksandr Aliyev enter the field? I think he should."
Since they went 2-0 up France have been on the back-foot mostly, much to the delight of the Ukrainian supporters in the ground. Can they get a goal back or more this evening?
Well, some of the goalless predictions have half-time have proven to be wrong! But that will be of little consolation to the thousands of miserable, wet Ukrainians inside the Donbass Arena...
Assist Karim Benzema
Goal Yohan Cabaye
GOAL!! France double their lead! Yohan Cabaye stands in the pocket between Ukraine's centre-backs and slides the ball into the bottom right-hand corner when the ball is fed through to him from the right wing. Ukraine's task is looking mighty steep now. France lead 2-0!
Yellow Card Yevhen Selin
Donetsk is stunned into relative silence. The Euro 2012 co-hosts had finally built up a head of steam but that goal has brought them crashing back to reality.
Assist Karim Benzema
Goal Jérémy Menez
GOAL!! The French counter-attack down the left, switch it along the floor to Jeremy Menez on the right just inside the box. He dummies on his right foot, switches onto his left foot then curls low into the bottom right-hand corner past Pyatov. Ukraine 0-1 France!
Adil Rami shrugs off a run down his outside on the left half of the French box from Shevchenko. One or two shouts for a penalty from the Donbass Arena crowd but little fuss is made by the Ukraine striker tellingly.
Ukraine have another close effort, this time from Tymoshchuk, who blasts a few feet over after unexpectedly finding himself in possession in the France box.
Wow!!! Shevchenko almost puts Oleg Blokhin's men 1-0 up against the run of play with a barnstorming strike from 25-yards then curls roughly five millimetres wide of the top left-hand corner!
Menez breaks through the Ukraine back four, wriggles into the box and forces a low save from Pyatov. The eastern European side are looking fragile to the 25-year-old's dribbles.
Menez still looks sharp on the right wing for France in this second half. His low cross is blocked before it can reach Benzema on the penalty spot.
Andriy Voronin is replaced by Marko Devych for Ukraine and play is back under way!
Ukraine and France are back out in Donetsk. Moments from kick-off...
"What about Sweden's line-up?!" I hear you cry! Well, good news folks: Isaksson; Granqvist, Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson; Svensson, Kallstrom; Larsson, Ibrahimovic, Elm; Elmander. Plenty of attacking threat in that 4-2-3-1. Fingers crossed the thunderstorm stays well clear of Kiev!
Another 'by the way' for you here! England's line-up for their Sweden clash is as follows: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young; Carroll, Welbeck. Andy Carroll in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then as Roy Hodgson shuffles his Three Lions into a standard 4-4-2.
By the way, England's match with Sweden will kick-off 15 minutes later than planned at 8pm UK time. This means the games won't overlap and we can all have one happy, harmonious Group D evening post-torrential downpour!
TomEMcKeown asks: "First 0-0 of the tournament?" Maybe, but I'm still hoping for goals galore! What do you think? Let us know in the chat section on the right what score the game will finish and who you can see getting on the scoresheet!
Half-time! Subdued is the name of the game after a thunderstorm suspended play for 50 minutes after just 250 seconds of play. France have looked more dominant but Ukraine have been frustrating and threatening to Les Bleus at times too. All to play for in the second half then! 0-0!
45' + 1'
Menez needs to be careful - he was booked for a soft foul earlier but that tackle on Selin was more deserving of a yellow card. It's possible Blanc will withdraw him at the break to ensure he still has 11 men on the pitch come full-time.
Ukraine are playing with a defensive back-line of seven players as half-time beckons!
Benzema and Nasri play a nice one-two but Benzema's ball into the cross is booted clear before Menez can pounce.
Shevchenko's quickly taken throw-in loops cleverly beyond Clicly into the path of Yarmolenko, but the Ukraine winger's cross is poor and whips out of play for a French goal-kick.
Simmering yet still subdued. Lots of 's' words in one small sentence to summarise this match thus far.
Yellow Card Jérémy Menez
Ukraine have the ball down the right but, as has been the case all match, they are struggling to work the ball into France's18-yard box.
Nasri will take..and it curls to Benzema at the back post, who powers his header to Pyatov's near, left post, but the Ukraine goalkeeper Pyatov saves wide smartly for a France corner.
...but Philippe Mexes clears with his head, and France have a free-kick near the Ukraine box on the left after Gusev wipes out Ribery.
A poor Ukraine corner is almost redeemed by Benzema of all people when the striker fails to clear at the near post. The Euro 2012 co-hosts have another corner now...
Ukraine are proving very frustrating for the French. Blanc's side are attacking un numbers but retreating just as fast, be it by a goal-kick, free-kick against them or a wayward pass.
I enjoyed the commentator's comparison between the Donbass Arena and St James' Park. That is all!
Shevchenko shoots!!! Lloris saves!!! Selin played the Ukraine striker through after a long ball from the defender and a superb run from the attacker culminated in Lloris reaching to his right and saving Shevchenko powerful attempt from just inside the box on the left.
France are continuing to target Ukraine's right-back, Gusev, and are still the more controlling team as the first third of the match passes by.
For those who missed it: Ukraine-France was delayed about 50 minutes after play was paused four minutes in before of a torrential thunderstorm in Donetsk.
Ribery takes on Gusev on France's left side but comes out as the loser. Despite his cries for a France corner, Ukraine are given the goal-kick.
James Goldman adds from the Donbass Arena: "France have certainly been the quicker to settle but have, like against England, failed to make possession count for much. The pitch, particularly the area in front of the benches which the ground staff were working on so furiously, is beginning to cut up quite badly."
Good save from Pyatov! Anatoliy Tymoshchuk plays a woeful pass back towards his defender swhich Robery intercepts and squares it for his France team-mate Benzema inside the box. However, it skids past the forward to the feet of Samir Nasri, but Pyatov gets down low and uses his body to block the Manchester City attacker's effort.
Michael Yokhin is pleased with Yarmolenko's chance, adding: "First good chance for Ukraine, not surprisingly coming from Yarmolenko. His partnership with Gusev on the right is starting to spark again in the last few minutes"
Benzema has another pop on the Ukraine goal but his shoot is feeble and offers little threat.
Robin Bairner, our French football expert, thinks: "While France are controlling the ball, Ukraine have shown a threat on the break. Les Bleus are committing players forward, and on the counter the clever movement of the home players is an issue. Shevchenko gets away down the left channel, but Mexes is well placed to clear. This is the kind of scare that France have to minimise if they're to win."
Beautiful turn inside the box from Menez, who twists away from his marker after Franck Ribery's pass from the left edge, before the 25-yeard-old French attacker fires a few inches over Pyatov's crossbar.
Ukraine go close! Serhiy Nazarenko works the ball from left to right for Andriy Yarmolenko to shoot marginally wide and low to Hugo Lloris' left upright. The 'home' crowd respond with wild cheers.
Ukraine have possession down the right flank this time. Will they fare any better on this wing I wonder?
Ukraine expert Michael Yokhin reveals: "Menez goal might have been rightly called offside, but the quick winger is posing a very big threat to inexperienced left-back Selin. Coupled with poor tactical sense of central backs Mykhalyk and Khacheridi, the opening minutes look worrying for the hosts."
But it comes to zilch, nothing, nil pas. Laurent Blanc's men have the ball back and are pinging it about lightning-fast. (The weather puns will wear out, I promise!)
Boos are echoing around the Donbass Arena as France continue to dominate possession in Donetsk. Ukraine are finally finding their footing however, and Yevhen Selin charges down the left from full-back to win a throw-in in French territory.
The tempo remains is as subdued as the weather is now, but that's hardly surprising after a 50-minute pause in play I suppose.
And Bairner reacts to that disallowed goal from France: "One of the reasons Menez has been included in the starting XI is because he likes to run in behind defences - something France lacked against England. Ribery releases the PSG attacker, and though he finishes, he was well offside. It was, nevertheless, encouraging from France and Ribery, who played the pass after an incisive break past a sluggish defence."
Goal.com's resident France expert Robin Bairner adds: "France can take heart from this start. They've looked dangerous going forward, with the pace of their attack particularly notable. The slippery conditions should suit the smaller, more manoeuvrable attacking players of Les Bleus, such as Ribery and Nasri."
France have scored!! Oh, but it's been disallowed!! Menez is rightly called back after mistiming his run into the opposition's area after some neat passing play on the French left flank.
Some magnificent overreaction from the Ukrainian attackers when they are fouled. Shevchenko is the latest to try his hand at Oscar-winning acting as he tumbles to the floor near his own 18-yard box.
Towel in hand, our Donbass Arena correspondent James Goldman types: "And I thought working conditions at the likes of Underhill and Griffin Park were tough. Against all the odds the game is back underway, without the players having been granted the opportunity to warm-up. Surely UEFA will come in for deserved criticism should one of the players pull a muscle during the early exchanges."
Robin Bairner, our France expert, adds: "If you just turned on to watch this game, you would scarcely believe the scenes an hour ago. The ball is rolling truly, and it seems the swimming pool we once had has, indeed, been replaced by a football pitch once again."
Andriy Yarmolenko makes a meal of it when Gael Clichy clatters him on Ukraine's right flank, but deservedly wins a free-kick around the halfway line at least.
Ukraine centre-back Yevhen Khacheridi blocks Nasri from getting the ball in the box. Nice physicality from the eastern European, allowing his goalkeeper to rush out and claim the ball.
So, five minutes have been played since the match restarted and France have looked on top. The atmosphere is gradually returning to its former self as fans get reseated. Ukraine will no doubt benefit once their fans reach full volume again.
Jeremy Menez passes from right to left to Samir Nasri who slots Benzema into the box but the Real Madrid forward is tackled before he can get the ball out of his feet and shoot.
Andriy Shevchenko picking up possession on the Ukraine left wing brings huge cheers from the crowd but the striker is crowded out in a hurry.
Karim Benzema forces a save from Andriy Pyatov after cutting in from the French left flank and shooting from the edge of the box.
As the player readjust to the conditions, our France expert Robin Bairner adds: "The stoppage should have aided the French. Some of the early bluster has gone out of the Ukrainian crowd, with the early momentum of the hosts spoiled somewhat."
The game has restarted!! I can finally move on from the 4-minute mark!!
This game can no longer live up to the high expectations I've placed on it during this break in play! Here's to hoping we don't see a dull and drab 0-0 at least. Hopefully the wet surface will provide a wildcard to give the attackers an advantage and we'll see some goals!
Swapping the focus back to international football, play is set to get under way any minute now. The players are back on the pitch and warming up again.
Sam Coath wrote: "This break in play was nothing but good for me, my Leyton Orient side are finally pushing for promotion in FM12!" This is what I like to hear. I'll save you my rant on how my York City team on Football Manager managed to depress me this week with their woeful relegation-threatened form.
A dancing, green-shirted Ukrainian has made me laugh in the Donbass Arena. What a legend. No dampened spirits in Donetsk it seems.
"A multi-pronged electric fork machine"? You wouldn't get one of those at a Sunday league match, that's for sure. Thankfully, Uefa are not Sunday league level!
More word from our damp Donetsk correspondent James Goldman: "Now a multi-pronged electric fork machine on the pitch. Still thunder and lightning but rain is abating. Referee is now on pitch testing conditions. The ball is rolling - huge cheers from the home fans."
If the game gets back under way at 6pm it will end just after the England-Sweden starts. So, a bit of overlapping but nothing major. Fingers crossed the heavens decide not to open again tonight...
France expert Robin Bairner has been keeping himself busy by burying his head in the record books during this pause in play. He reveals: "Some of France's players are used to such delays. Jeremy Menez was part of the PSG squad that had their match temporarily paused for crowd disruption against Lorient on the final day of the season. Montpellier's match with Auxerre was disrupted more significantly, but Olivier Giroud was on the bench anyway tonight."
Phew! That means there's only 11 minutes until kick-off in Donetsk! You can re-open than bag of popcorn/crisps/custard creams and ready yourself for some feast-worthy football methinks.
ITV SPORT HAVE CONFIRMED UKRAINE-FRANCE WILL RESTART AT 6PM!
James Goldman - what a hero. But mark my words ladies and gentleman, you will probably never see the phrase "furiously thrusting" used in a play-by-play ever again!
James Goldman gives us a quick update from the Donbass Arena: "Just had a look at the pitch. Doesn't look too bad aside from one area in front of the dugouts which the staff are furiously thrusting pitchforks into." Positive words indeed. Boys and girls: we might just have ourselves a game of football at this rate!
Enjoying plenty of the positivity among you in the chat section of our Live Match Centre! RobbyDuguay writes: "Maybe the delay of game will let me actually watch more of the game after work." That's the spirit Robby!
I wonder if you kick and splash puddle water at your opponents if that can be considered a foul. Hmm. Let's hope these players get back out on the pitch so one cheeky soul gives it a try and we can find out!
All sorts of semi-dry suited figures are stood on the sidelines in Donetsk having discussions, presumably, on whether play can restart.
The referee is checking the pitch in the Donbass Arena now I hear. I hope he brought his swimming trunks...
Experienced commentator John Motson told the BBC of a similar circumstance nearly 40 years ago: "This reminds me of a similar situation in my first World Cup in 1974. It was a second phase game between Germany and either Poland or Sweden and I remember the pitch was waterlogged. They brought on little apparatus to drain the pitch and that enabled the game to go ahead. I remember the shock inside the stadium because something like that to go wrong in Germany was almost unheard of!"
Abbeythan wrote in our chat section (on the right-hand side of this Live Match Centre don't you know?!) wrote: "Just what's needed to make a great tournament.....'rain' lol."
Breaking news which is much more worrying than the suspension of a football match. Martin del Palacio has confirmed reports that three activists from feminist association Femen disappeared today after arriving to Donetsk, where they planned to protest during the Ukraine-France match.
Liverpool legend Jan Molby told James Goldman - firmly tongue-in-cheek - that: "Good players can play in any conditions." Go on Molby, get out there and show them how it's done!!
Ah ha! Word from James Goldman has emerged! Our correspondent in the Donbass Arena confirms the pitch is completely waterlogged and casts doubt over whether the match will restart this evening.
Our Donetsk correspondent James Goldman is currently getting dry and, probably, mopping up a waterlogged laptop! But the latest footage from the Donbass Arena show thunder and lightning still prevailing in the Ukrainian sky line.
Breaking news!!! No further decision on whether play will restart will be made until 6pm UK time (or 32 minutes from now).
Will we see both games being played simultaneously tonight perhaps? If this suspension drags on for much longer then we could certainly see some significant overlap between Ukraine-France and England-Sweden.
Bairner, that absolute trooper, has unearthed this top stat: "The only time England have suffered an abandonment in a competitive fixture was against Czechoslovakia in Bratislava on Wednesday 29th October 1975. The European Championship qualifier was abandoned after 17 minutes due to fog with the score 0-0. The match was then played the following day and England lost 1-2, England's first defeat with Don Revie as manager."
Our France expert is scouring the cored books as I type searching for a similar instance of this happening. Can you recall anything of its sort? Share with us in the chat section on the right of this Live Match Centre!
I think now is the right time to shake my fist and shout "screw you, global warming!!!" Or should it be global wetting...
So, based on that last update, it looks like France and Ukraine should yet get to face each other properly, even though it could end up being tomorrow.
Uefa's rules for Euro finals being abandoned are: "If a match cannot commence or is abandoned before the end of normal playing time or during any extra time because the field is not fit for play or for other reasons, it must be played or replayed in full the next day. If, for reasons beyond control, the match cannot be replayed the next day, the UEFA administration will take a final decision."
I've got an update on exactly what will happen if this match is cancelled tonight, bear with me a second...
Our correspondent in Kiev, Kris Voakes, gives us an ominous hint: "We've just started feeling some high winds here in overcast Kiev too. Don't bet against a similar disruption to Sweden-England!"
If the rain continues, the match will be played tomorrow night instead. There's still plenty of hope it'll restart this evening however.
Absolute madness or what?! Can you remember any incidents like this in football history? Golf and cricket get this stuff all the time of course, but for those sports just a little drop of water causes a full-scale evacuation.
Stick with us, hopefully the actual football will recommence soon. I'll bring you all the info I can find from the Donbass Arena.
The fans have been ushered to safety away from the torrential downpour as play remains suspended. Apparently the lightning and rain isn't relenting, worryingly.
James Goldman, who is getting soaked in Donetsk, reveals: A magnificent stadium this might be but us journos have just spotted one major design flaw. As the players came out onto the pitch they were met with an enormous clap of thunder and then the heavens opened. The rain has fallen at an incredible rate and there is already surface water on this pitch, and is sweeping into the press box where we have taken cover under plastic sheets. After four minutes the players have been called off."
The referee, Bjorn Kuipers, has stopped play because of the appallingly wet weather! What a turn of events we have!
Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov hoofs it clear when Samir Nasri slots through on goal.
Michael Yokhin, our Ukraine expert, says: "The rain is starting to remind of the very wet West Germany vs Sweden game at 1974 World Cup." It really is pouring it down in Donetsk by the looks of things.
Ukraine are defending France pressure at the moment - if the Euro 2012 co-hosts win tonight they will become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals.
And we're under way between Ukraine and France!
An incredible little snippet of info to share as the players shake hands and make their way into their position: Samir Nasri’s goal against England came after 21 consecutive passes - the longest build-up to a goal at the European Championships in 32 years!
GoalUK Betting Editor Jim Knight will be chirping in the occasional update for the keen punters among you all match. He says: "That France team selection has got a few people scrambling to oppose Les Blues, Laurent Blanc's side are out to 11/10 with Bet365 now, Ukraine are 3/1 for victory whilst the draw is 21/10 - it looks as an attacking line-up, I reckon they'll be goals in this one, over 2.5 goals is 6/5."
France's national anthem booms out in the Donbass Arena. Good to see all the French players getting in on the sing-song!
The players are in the tunnel and Bayern Munich team-mates Anatoliy Timoshchuk and Franck Ribery have a little facial grope! They'll be competing against each other today of course.
I'm full of little stats, as you can see, but I want to hear yours! Your stats, your thoughts and your score predictions! Do you see Les Bleus winning? Ukraine triumphing on home soil? Or a Group D stalemate? Use the chat section of our Live Match Centre on the right to interact!
France have gone EIGHT games without winning in major tournaments (4 draws, 4 losses). That's the worst run in their history. If Laurent Blanc can turn that statistic on its head and take France to Euro 2012 victory, he will become the second person (after Berti Vogts in 1976 then 1996) to win the Euros as a player then a manager.
Another fun fact: France are fielding their youngest XI since 1960! A sign this French team could be even more dangerous in the future perhaps?
Fun fact: Oleg Blokhin is a Ballon d’Or winner! Sure, it was 37 years ago, but still, he knows his stuff. I'd love to see how Blokhin would have fared if Lionel Messi was at his peak back in 1975...
Michael Yokhin adds: "Ukraine have never won a game in Donetsk (two draws, three defeats); Ukraine have never won against France (three draws, three defeats); will they make history on both fronts today?" Will they? Or will France conquer once more? Feed me your thoughts!
James Goldman - remember the name! He's our correspondent in Donetsk this afternoon and is currently soaking up the humid air in Ukraine: "Just under half an hour to go until kick-off and the atmosphere, if not quite at fever pitch, is certainly far removed from the slightly underwhelming build-up to France’s match against England here on Monday. Aside from a pocket of Les Bleus fanatics housed in a tiny corner of the stadium away to my right, there’s more yellow in this stadium than an episode of The Simpsons."
Maybe M'Vila isn't fit yet? Or do you think Alou Diarra and Yohan Cabaye justified their role on the pitch with a dominating midfield performance against England on Monday? Let me know in the new chat box on the right!
And, a final segment of line-up analysis from our France expert Robin Bairner: "There had been speculation Samir Nasri would drop out, with rumours suggesting a punishment for his celebration against England, but he makes the cut and will be the No.10 in a very fluid offensive midfield trio, which in itself is a departure from Monday's game, in which France played 4-3-3. Now they will go to the 4-2-3-1 system they have favoured under Blanc, though 4-3-3 remains an option with the likes of Yann M'Vila, whose exclusion in itself is a major shock, on the bench."
Another segment of Robin Bairner goodness for you: "The other change in personnel comes in the left-back role, with Patrice Evra dropping out. He foolishly gave away a needless free kick that led to England's goal in the opening match and has therefore been cut, with his poor showing against Iceland doubtless coming into play too. Blanc is a fan of keeping a steady defence, so he won't have made this alteration lightly."
Now for some France line-up analysis! Robin Bairner, Goal.com's resident French football expert, is on hand to analyse this one: "The media had predicted big changes for France today, with the reliable source of L'Equipe even being caught off guard by these alterations. Blanc has tinkered rather than made the wholesale changes expected. Florent Malouda was widely expected to be axed after a rather ineffectual display in the heart of the midfield against England, and the coach has taken a bold step by introducing Jeremy Menez; a player who can be brilliant or who can be immensely frustrating. More often than not of late, the PSG winger has been excellent."
Michael Yokhin adds: "While places of Oleh Gusev, Andriy Yarmolenko and Andriy Shevchenko in the line-up are absolutely obvious and unquestionable, serious doubts remain as for the central defence pairing of Yevhen Khacheridi and Taras Mykhalyk. Both are very strong physically, but less sound tactically, and Khacheridi is known for his very hot temper which he frequently fails to control. Their play will be crucial against the threats posed by the potent France attack, and Karim Benzema will fancy his chances this time after being closed out be England on Monday. A very curious matchup will be between rather inexperienced left-back Yevhen Selin against a tricky winger like Jeremy Menez."
Hmmm, that could be an interesting one. A European Championship host being booed by their own crowd without playing poorly? That could be a first.
Instead of measly old me analysing that Ukranian line-up, our Ukraine expert Michael Yokhin takes a look at the team news: Unsurprisingly, Oleg Blokhin names unchanged line-up to the one that defeated Sweden on Monday. The most curious point is that with the game taking place in Donetsk, as opposed to Kiev, there is still only one Shakhtar player on the field, the goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, while no less than five Dinamo Kiev players. It will be curious to see the reaction of Donetsk crowd. It is supposed to be supportive and welcoming, but there might be some exceptions."
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Clichy; Cabaye, Diarra; Ribery, Nasri, Menez; Benzema.
Ukraine: Pyatov; Gusev, Khacheridi, Mykhalyk, Selin; Timoschchuk, Nazarenko, Konoplyanka, Yarmolenko; Shevchenko, Voronin.
First thing's first - team line-ups! Here they are folks...
Last and by no means least, I’ve got you lovely lot to rely on for thoughts and opinions. You can get in touch to rant, rave or whatever else you like in the chat section to the right-hand side of this Live Match Centre. Don’t be shy, give it a try! (I apologise for that awful bit of rhyming unreservedly.)
I’m also supported by a multitude of correspondents in Ukraine and experts waiting in the wings, who will be giving me and all of you their insights throughout this play-by-play.
Hello and welcome to Goal.com’s LIVE coverage of Ukraine v France. I’m Miles Chambers and I’ve got team line-ups, stats galore and all the action itself to bring you from now until full-time. I’m like a Swiss army knife but a lot less harmful and a lot more interesting!
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