Trailing Ukraine 2-0 after a now customarily abysmal performance in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff, the French didn't have much confidence in their team making a comeback.
From the Guardian:
In l'Equipe, with almost 60,000 people responding, some 61% do not think France will make it to Brazil 2014. The response in Le Parisien (23,000 votes) was even more radical. The pessimists numbered a shade over 84%. Perhaps most alarmingly of all was another question posed by Le Parisien. "Do you continue to support Les Bleus in spite of everything," it asked? A mere 16% clicked "Oui".
All of those Didier and Darcie Downers stayed home for the second leg, leaving just the optimistic minority to fill the Stade de France and the players responded. They finally played like a team filled with talent, attacked like they actually cared for once, and it paid off when Mamadou Sahko scored first for France in the 22nd minute. Karim Benzema was then wrongly ruled offside on a goal...
But five minutes later the officials made up for the mistake and gave the Irish flashbacks to Thierry Henry's handball in the 2010 World Cup qualifying playoffs by giving Benzema a goal that should've ben ruled offside...
Oleg Gusev was credited with an own goal in the 72nd minute to put France up 3-2 on aggregate — a lead that they managed to hold until the final whistle. This sealed their second straight unlikely qualification for the World Cup and proved once and for all that Ukraine are kinda weak.
As long as France score more than one goal and don't go on strike in the middle of a training session, they should be able to improve on their 2010 World Cup performance. But with France that's far from a given.
- Sports & Recreation