Sports

World Cup Champions France Held by Ukraine in Qualifying

France was held to a surprise draw by Ukraine as they got their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign underway. The world champions began confidently and deservedly went ahead when Antoine Griezmann superbly curled a left-foot effort into the corner from 18 yards.

However, Ukraine held firm in defence and levelled when Serhiy Sydorchuk’s deflected shot wrong-footed France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. In Wednesday’s other Group D fixture Finland drew with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Norwich forward Teemu Pukki scored twice for the hosts with Miroslav Stevanovic and Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic scoring for the visitors. It had looked like being a comfortable evening for Didier Deschamps’ France side when Griezmann’s expertly registered his 34th international goal.

But Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud was twice unable to convert good opportunities to score and Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman appeared to have a valid penalty claim when he was brought down by Ukraine goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan.

Those moments provided the visitors with the impetus to hit back, with Sydorchuk’s effort their first on target but only after a significant diversion off France defender Presnel Kimpembe. While the hosts introduced Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, the visitors merited their hard-fought point.

Buhlebezwe Ntiwane.

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