In two words: Andriy Pyatov. He is the reason that France will not advance to Brazil next summer to play in the World Cup. The Ukrainian goalkeeper has set a national record for eight straight clean sheets and will likely put together yet another in the return leg today.
After beating France 2-nil in Kiev last Friday, Ukraine will travel to Paris where they are expected to put the finishing touches on their World Cup aspirations. France has a difficult two-goal deficit to overcome, so even if they force Pyatov into conceding his first goal in 2013, it might not be enough.
French manager Didier Deschamps may consider shuffling his lineup to feature more prominent players up front. Real Madrid star Karim Benzema may find a place in the starting eleven, possibly over Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud. Benzema has had difficulties with the international squad, enduring a 16-month scoreless drought, but ended that streak over the summer against Australia. Giroud is seen as a more natural fit in the 4-2-3-1 formation, but it’s obvious that things need to be shaken up to produce a different result.
If France loses, you can count on the removal of Deschamps from the helm almost immediately. The last time France was playing in the World Cup in Brazil, in 1998, they won it all and were forever in the history books. This time around, they might not even make it there.