France defeated co-hosts Ukraine on Friday evening in Donetsk, after a thunderstorm delayed play for 55 minutes.
The co-hosts Ukraine went into the fixture with the same line-up that had defeated Sweden 2-1 in the previous round of matches, whilst France, unbeaten in 22 matches, dropped Florent Malouda in favour of former Roma winger Jeremy Menez and Patrice Evra in favour of Gael Clichy
The game originally kicked off as scheduled at 5pm UK time, but such was the torrential rain from a thunderstorm that hit the area and playing conditions, match official Bjorn Kuipers suspended play after just five minutes.
With lightening and thunder overhead, stewards at the Donbass Arena also urged supporters out of open spaces as a precaution, whilst the players and substitutes retreated to the dressing rooms.
Play resumed an hour later.
After a cagey first few exchanges of play, France had the first breakthrough, only for Menez’s side-foot finish to be ruled out for offside. Franck Ribery’s 20-yard run and through-ball had created the opportunity.
Generally kept quiet by the French, Ukraine’s first real opportunity came on 25, when Andriy Yarmolenko had a sighter at goal from 20 yards out, but he dragged his effort wide of the right post.
Within a minute, Menez had another shot for Les Bleus, when Ribery dispossessed Serhiy Nazarenko on the edge of his own penalty area to cut back to the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder. His shot, however, carried a few yards above the goal.
Soon after this, Karim Benzema dropped a shoulder from 25 yards out to make space for an effort, but his low attempt bounced straight into Andriy Pyatov’s arms.
France’s third clear chance again fell to Menez, again after neat work from Ribery to capitalise on Ukrainian hesitancy from a long ball. Ribery’s pull back was aimed for Benzema, but instead carried through to Menez, who drew a fine reaction block from Pyatov.
Andriy Shevchenko, who was the hero on Monday night against Sweden, had his first golden chance after the half-hour mark, when a Yevhen Selin long-ball caught Adil Rami the wrong side of the former Milan man, who controlled well at pace, only to see Hugo Lloris block his volleyed effort.
Philippe Mexes was the next to test Pyatov’s reactions, as a from a lofted free-kick his unmarked presence at the back post brought the ‘keeper into action to push behind the Milan man’s header.
Menez had a nervy end to the first half, when, having already been booked earlier on, he caught Selin with a poorly-timed challenge. However, Kuipers elected not to take further action.
A fast start to the second half saw both sides more proactive, with Menez having the first chance again, running through on goal only to see his low shot saved by Pyatov.
At the other end, Shevchenko went inches wide of the top left corner of Lloris’ goal with a 25-yard effort after coming in from the left side of the pitch to work the angle. It was followed a minute later by a less-accurate effort over the bar from Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
However, it was France who took the lead, when Menez finished off a quick counter-attacking move by cutting in from the right side of the penalty area to finish past Pyatov down low to his left.
The crowd were silenced three minutes later, when Benzema came deep to pick up possession, turn and beat his marker, before sliding a pass through to Yohan Cabaye, whose left-footed effort also beat Pyatov down low to his left.
France then took the ascendancy and after a couple of long-distance efforts, Cabaye almost capped as sustained period of possession with an excellent third, only to see his mid-height effort from 20 yards come back off the post.
After quietening the atmosphere, France played out the remainder of the tie in relative comfort.
Ukraine 0-2 France
Scorers: Menez 53 (F), Cabaye 56 (F)
Ukraine: Pyatov; Gusev, Khacheridi, Mykhalyk, Selin; Tymoshchuk, Nazarenko (Milevskiy 60), Konoplyanka, Yarmolenko (Aliyev 68), Shevchenko, Voronin (Devic 46)
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Clichy; Cabaye (M’Vila 68), Diarra; Ribery, Nasri, Menez (Martin 73); Benzema (Giroud 76)
Ref: Kuipers (Netherlands)
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