France v Ukraine: 'We cannot afford to concede a goal,' says Les Bleus' midfielder Blaise Matuidi
Ukraine lead 2-0 from the first leg of the World Cup play-off
Tuesday 19 November 2013
France will have the defy the odds - and the expectations of their own supporters - to book a ticket to the World Cup in Brazil.
Les Bleus go into the second leg of their qualifier against Ukraine on Tuesday night trailing 2-0 after a dismal showing in Kiev last week, a performance which persuaded 60 per cent of respondents France were unlikely to qualify according to a poll conducted by sports daily L'Equipe.
Paris St Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi told the French Football Federation's official website: "For most of us, it is the most important game in our careers.
"We all want to show something different to what we did on Friday. We have to be stronger in the battles and improve our technical quality.
"We have to play with heart, with guts, but with the head as well. We have to score but we cannot afford to let in a goal.
"We know we have the talent to do it but we have to show pride and passion."
Ukraine lead courtesy of goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko, and the clean sheet last week was their eighth in a row, a national record for which goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov was quick to share the credit with his defenders.
Pyatov told the Football Federation of Ukraine's website: "The guys have been great. This sequence was possible due to their efforts.
"When the goalkeeper is not beaten, the team has a better chance of winning. For me the main thing is the result of the team.
"It is more important to go to Brazil than to set records."
Portugal will take a 1-0 lead to Stockholm to face Sweden in round two of the clash between two of the world's best forwards.
Cristiano Ronaldo's diving header gave Portugal their slender lead, but Sweden have spent the week working on ways to get better service to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Midfielder Sebastian Larsson said: "We cannot go out all guns blazing but we must have a more attacking game with more ball higher up the pitch, then we will get Zlatan more in the game."
Conditions could also favour Sweden with temperatures close to zero forecast and a less than optimum playing surface.
"Portugal have a small advantage, and we are expecting a very difficult game, but we are ready," said Ronaldo.
"We will have to be fully focused. More than anything else, these players want to be in Brazil, so we will give our best to get there."
Croatia were held to a 0-0 draw by Iceland in Reykjavik, but coach Niko Kovac is confident the game will go his side's way on home soil.
"The impression remains that we are the better team and have a better overall repertoire," he said. "They play very simple football with a lot of vertical switching and that's always risky.
"I am confident that we will repeat our dominant display in Zagreb and will ultimately get to Brazil."
Greece are strong favourites against Romania after winning 3-1 in Athens, but Portuguese coach Fernando Santos will be taking nothing for granted.
"Although we are ahead in the tie we still need to go to Romania with a focused mindset as everything will be decided then," he said after the first leg.
"Nothing is over yet."
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