It will go down as a special night in Paris. It was a night that finally saw the France national team pull together in a clutch situation and produce a performance that harked back to the glory days of 1998, when the nation famously won the World Cup at Stade de France.
Tonight, France’s aim was rather more modest: simply qualifying for the World Cup was the target. The task was monumental and in many eyes impossible as no side had ever turned around a two-goal deficit from the away leg to qualify for a major international competition.
With a 3-0 win, les Bleus rewrote the record books.
From the first seconds of the match, Didier Deschamps’ side showed the spirit and commitment that was so embarrassingly lacking in Kiev, where it lost 2-0 on Friday. The urgency that was so sorely missing was abundant in tremendous quantity as the reshaped midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye dominated matters, while a fired-up Franck Ribery looked every inch the Ballon d’Or favorite he is professed to be.
Deschamps’ tactical decisions – unlike Friday – were perfect. Mamadou Sakho and Karim Benzema were recalled to the side and both were able to get on the scoresheet, the latter from an offside position moments after having a valid strike disallowed, while there can be little doubt of the impact Mathieu Valbuena’s effervescent performance had on the match, particularly in contrast to Samir Nasri’s tepid display in the first leg.