European World Cup playoff roundup: France on the brink of first failed qualifying campaign since 1994


France is on the brink of missing their first World Cup in 20 years, with today’s disappointment in Kiev the headline result after the opening legs of Europe’s four World Cup 2014 playoffs.

Thanks to goals by Roman Zozulyn and Andriy Yarmolenko, Les Bleus will need to turn around a two-goal deficit next week in France. Compounding their problems. France will need to do so without one of their best defenders, with Laurent Koscielny’s stoppage time antics earning the center half a straight red card.

Elsewhere, Greece gave themselves a buffer ahead of their trip to Bucharest, Croatia missed an opportunity to put away their tie in Iceland, and Cristiano Ronaldo came up big against Sweden.

Here’s what happened around Europe on Friday:

61′ Roman Zozulyna, 82′ Andriy Yarmolenko (p.k.)

After an hour of even play where the visitors may have been the slightly better side, Ukraine broke through. Carrying a ball in from their left flank, the hosts found veteran Edmar just inside the France penalty area, the naturalized Brazilian then one-touching a ball to the other side of the box for Roman Zozulya. Shrugging off right back Mathieu Debuchy, the Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk attacker beat Hugo Lloris for the match’s opening goal.

Had the score stayed 1-0, France could have consoled themselves with the slight reprimand. Instead, an 82nd minute penalty conceded by Koscielny allowed Yarmolenko to double Ukraine’s edge, the attacker banging his conversion off the woodwork and good in front of his home crowd.

In the 91st minute, things got worse for Koscielny, who was shown straight red after shoving Olexandr Kucher to the ground while taking exception with a studs-up challenge on Debuchy. After seeing yellow for the play, Kucher would earn a second booking five minutes later. Both players will miss the second leg in Paris.

82′ Cristiano Ronaldo

From our previous post:

It was the beginning of a one-sided half, the early close call potentially convincing Sweden to hold out earlier than they may have liked. For the next half hour, Erik Hamrén’s team stay deep and compact, forcing Portugal to do something special to beat them.

That moment came in the 82nd minute, with Miguel Veloso’s run out of central midfield and beating Larsson to put in a far post cross. That’s where Ronaldo out-muscled left back Martin Olsson, giving Portugal the lead they needed ahead of Tuesday’s leg in Sweden.

[MORE: Portugal 1, Sweden 0: Cristiano Ronaldo wins battle of titans (that wasn’t)]


Croats may be disappointed with today’s result, particularly considering a straight red card to Iceland right back Olafur Skulason left the home side playing the last 40 minutes with 10 men. Croatia’s best chance in the time came from Ivan Perisic, who’s first-timer of a Mario Mandukic knockdown left Hannes Thór Halldórsson flat footed as the ball flew just wide of his left post.

Yet despite a 14-4 edge in shots and a 6-0 advantage in shots on target, the favorits never broke through, even if the 0-0 result leaves them in good shape ahead of Tuesday’s decider in Zagreb.

14′, 66′ – Konstantinos Mitroglu, 19′ Bogdan Stancu, 21′ Dimitrios Salpingidis

The Greeks used some free kick trickery to get on the board in the 14th minute, a feigned run onto onto a restart seeing the defensive line retreat ahead of a actual cross, one that was played short of the line. After that ball was sent out of the box for Dimitrios Salpingidis, the Greek attacker was able to chip the advancing defense, Konstantinos Mitroglou eventually redirecting the lob into the right side of goal.

Five minutes later, Romania returned the favor, a more traditionally executed free kick seeing an in-swinger from Gabriel Torje heading home by Bogdan Stancu just before the cross curved out of play. When, two minutes later, Salpingidis redirected a Vasilis Torosidis shot into the Romanian net, the match had all the makings of a shootout.

For nearly an hour, however, the match stayed 2-1, a result the Romanians would have been content to take into next week’s reverse in Bucharest. But in the 68th minute, more set meet magic gave Greece their final goal, with a restart flicked on by Konstantinos Katsouranis put home by Mitroglou at the far post, the striker’s ninth international goal giving Fernando Santos’s team a two-goal lead after 90 minutes.

“Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings

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With eight games gone and 30 to go in the Premier League, now is the time that those preseason predictions start to get revised and new knee-jerk picks are made.

[ MORE: Klopp’s 10 best quotes ] have run the numbers through their “super computer” — how big is this thing? To me, it’s the size of several rooms… — and the intriguing table will surprise many.

[ MORE: Bradley to coach Sunderland?

Manchester City will win the title, pipping Arsenal to the crown, while Manchester United will finish in third and Chelsea will recover to finish fourth. At the bottom, only Bournemouth will be relegated out of the newly promoted teams, while it is looking bleak for Sunderland and Aston Villa.

[ MORE: Chung to sue Blatter for $100 million

Do you agree with the findings of

Click on this link via talkSPORT to see the points tally for each team, as it promises to be a tight race for the title and against relegation.

Predicted final Premier League table

1- Manchester City
2- Arsenal
3 – Manchester United
4- Chelsea
5- Liverpool
6- Tottenham Hotspur
7- Everton
8- Southampton
9- Crystal Palace
10- West Ham United
11- Swansea City
12- Stoke City
13- Leicester City
14 – West Bromwich Albion
15- Newcastle United
16- Norwich City
17- Watford
18- Bournemouth
19- Aston Villa
20- Sunderland

After defying quit calls, Blatter mediates between FAs

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ZURICH (AP) After defying pleas from FIFA sponsors to quit immediately, President Sepp Blatter is continuing regular business at soccer’s governing body, presiding over a dispute between football federations on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chung to sue Blatter for $100 million ]

Palestinian Football Union president Jibril Rajoub told The Associated Press: “Blatter is functioning well and in a good mood with common sense, a sense of humor.”

According to Rajoub, Blatter ruled at Tuesday’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s federation that a decision to force the Palestinians to play a World Cup qualifier at a neutral venue was “invalid.”

[ MORE: Bradley to coach Sunderland?

FIFA’s World Cup committee initially ordered the Oct. 13 game to be relocated from the West Bank to neighboring Jordan after the first leg was played in Riyadh.

[ MORE: Klopp’s 10 best quotes ]

Rajoub says FIFA has now agreed to postpone the fixture until a resolution is found.