Ménez strikes to rain on Ukraine's parade

Ukraine 0 France 2

Despite thunder, rain, a partisan crowd and Andrei Shevchenko, France recorded one of the most comfortable wins of Euro 2012 over Ukraine in Donetsk last night. A game that saw players running for cover when it was suspended after five minutes due to torrential rain, only for play to resume 55 minutes later, ended at walking pace as France outclassed the co-hosts.

After a low-key first half, which effectively served as a second warm-up after the delay, France did the necessary early in the second half. Two goals within three minutes for their very accomplished midfielders Jérémy Ménez and Yohan Cabaye proved more than enough.

Had France needed to score more goals they could have done but from there it was a case of simple control. On an afternoon which provided so many distractions, anticipated and not, it showed an impressive new professionalism: this was France's first tournament win since 2006.

When the players first emerged in the Donbass Arena it was raining heavily, and the French national anthem was interrupted by bursts of thunder. Referee Björn Kuipers began the game as normal but the torrential rain and potentially dangerous flashes of lightning forced him to bring the players off after just four and a half minutes of play.

With the players back in the dressing rooms, a cancellation by 24 hours appeared likely. But after talks between officials, the announcement came that the game would be resumed one hour after the initial kick-off.

Given the short start and the long delay, the match felt as if it was starting for the first time, but with the players less prepared than they normally would be. Both sides, then, failed to drum up much of a rhythm as they reacquainted themselves with the game.

But this was easier for France than their encounter with England on Monday, as they had space to attack. There were no rigid banks for four from the co-hosts, and soon enough lone striker Karim Benzema started to find openings. He tested Andrei Pyatov from distance before linking with Franck Ribéry in a move – later replicated for their opening goal – which concluded with Ménez's effort being disallowed for off-side.

Ménez, the Paris Saint-Germain winger brought in for Florent Malouda, was France's main goal threat throughout. Breaking from the right of Laurent Blanc's 4-2-3-1 system, he then shot over from Ribéry's pull-back before firing an even easier chance straight at Pyatov.

Although Ménez's opening goal did feel like it was just a matter of time, he was fortunate to still be on the pitch in the second half. Having been booked for pulling back Shevchenko, Ménez brought down Yevhen Selin in first-half stoppage time. Referee Kuipers, who must have already had enough drama for one day, just gave the Frenchman a warning.

It only took Ménez three minutes of the second half to threaten again – shooting again at Pyatov, this time from the inside-left channel. He might well have worried about his profligacy when Shevchenko and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk fired just over before he finally took the chance to put France ahead.

Ribéry stormed down the left wing, and found Benzema, who had dropped deep. The Real Madrid striker rolled a pass right to Ménez, who cut in on to his left foot and shot through Selin's legs and inside Pyatov's near post.

As is often the case, the eventual breaking of the dam prompted another rupture. Three minutes later Ménez passed to Benzema – again in the hole – who slid a perfect pass through to Cabaye on the edge of the box. Cabaye touched his way past Oleh Husyev and placed the ball into the bottom corner.

There were still 34 minutes left but the game was as good as won. The home crowd was silenced and without their support Ukraine faded. A smart passing move faced no resistance whatsoever, ending when Cabaye's perfectly-struck shot hit the post.

From there it was easy. Blanc brought Marvin Martin and Yann M'Vila on in midfield, replacing the two goalscorers, and they kept the ball with just as much comfort and accomplishment. Olivier Giroud came on for Benzema. Had he needed to score he might have done, but the job was already done.

Booked: Ukraine Selin. France Menez, Debuchy, Mexes.

Man of the match Ménez.

Match rating 6/10

Referee B Kuipers (Neth).

Attendance 51,504.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Travel
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities