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Both teams have been in superb defensive form and Phil Kitromilides argues that should make for an extremely low-scoring game

France enter their World Cup play-off against Ukraine as clear favourites to progress - and with good reason.

The talent in les Bleus' squad is unquestionable as Didier Deschamps boasts some of the continent's most exciting players at his disposal.

In Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema they possess one of the most enviable spines in world football, not to mention one of the favourites for this year's Ballon d'Or, Frank Ribery. If their big players click, they will comfortably overcome a Ukraine side that is more pragmatic than spectacular.

Paddy Power offer France at 7/5 (2.40) to secure a first-leg victory which is a price that will attract considerable attention, while the hosts can be backed at 2/1 (3.00) and the draw is offered at 11/5 (3.20).

Yet while Ukraine may not boast as many players of world-class ability as France, Mikail Fomenko's team are capable of making life tricky for their Gallic opponents, as they did against England in qualifying.

The bookies certainly think this will be a low-scoring encounter, with under 2.5 goals offered at just 1/2 (1.50).

That the price is so low is due to the recent defensive prowess of both sides, with Ukraine keeping seven clean sheets in a row and France not conceding in any of their last five fixtures.

Considerably more attractive is the price of 13/8 (2.63) for under 1.5 goals to be scored which has regularly paid out in the sides' competitive games.

Indeed, this proved the correct selection in two of Ukraine's last three home World Cup qualifiers, and in three of France's last five on the road.

The first legs of two-legged play-off ties are often tense affairs, particularly with so much at stake and there is every chance that this match between two defensively solid sides could be decided by a solitary goal.

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Under 1.5 goals at 13/8 (2.63) 0.5pt stake with Paddy Power

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Phil Kitromilides is a sports journalist and TV presenter in Madrid

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