BSP-05 Griezmann on target but holders France draw with Ukraine in World Cup qualifying





Griezmann on target but holders France draw with Ukraine in World Cup

SAINT-DENIS, France, March 25, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Antoine Griezmann scored a
superb goal but holders France were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Ukraine on
Wednesday as their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar got
off to a stumbling start.

Barcelona star Griezmann curled in the opener in the 19th minute before
Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine drew level courtesy of an own-goal by the
unfortunate Presnel Kimpembe just before the hour mark at an empty Stade de

It is a result that immediately puts the defending world champions on the
back foot, with only the group winners automatically qualifying for next
year’s finals.

France make the long trip to Central Asia to play Kazakhstan on Sunday
before stopping off in Sarajevo for another game against Bosnia and
Herzegovina next Wednesday.

Les Bleus will also face Finland in the five-team Group D, and a brace by
Teemu Pukki saw the Finns draw 2-2 with Bosnia in Helsinki in Wednesday’s
other game.

“We could and should have put the game to bed in the first half. We ran
out of steam a bit in the second half and we were up against a good team too,
although the goal we conceded was avoidable,” coach Didier Deschamps told
broadcaster TF1.

“We are obviously disappointed. It is the first step, we have two more
games to come which won’t be easy either.

“Qualifying is a long road and it won’t be plain sailing.”

Eight of the players who started the 2018 World Cup final win over Croatia
in Moscow were named in Deschamps’ starting XI here, with Paris Saint-Germain
centre-back Kimpembe, Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot and Bayern Munich
winger Kingsley Coman the only exceptions.

Another of the 2018 final heroes, midfielder Paul Pogba, came on as a
second-half substitute after Ukraine had cancelled out the lead given to the
hosts by Griezmann. He arced a shot from the right-hand edge of the penalty
box into the far corner to score his 34th international goal on the occasion
of his 87th cap.

It was a goal that surely would not have stood had VAR been in use for
this game, as Raphael Varane’s ball forward at the start of the move was
aimed at a Benjamin Pavard in an offside position.

However Ukraine, with a team featuring six starters from Dynamo Kiev,
overcame any sense of injustice from that to equalise with more than a slice
of luck.

As France struggled to clear their lines, Oleksandr Karavaev intercepted
the ball wide on the right before cutting it back for Serhiy Sydorchuk.

His first-time shot was going wide of the right-hand post before it struck
Kimpembe and trickled into the opposite corner, beyond the reach of
goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Ukraine, who are ranked 24th in the world and will be at Euro 2020 in
June, will hope to build on this result when they host Finland in Kiev on

BSS/AFP/FI/ 0838 hrs