Defending world champions France kicked off their 2022 FIFA World Cup European qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Wednesday.
Antoine Griezmann scored the opening goal for Les Bleus in the first half with a brilliant strike before defender Presnel Kimpembe handed the visitors a point with an own goal in the second half.
France dominated proceedings as expected but Didier Deschamps’ side failed to pick up the 3 points after lacking the determination and hunger to win the game.
This result meant that the 2018 FIFA World Cup winners missed an opportunity to already open up a gap at the top given that Finland and Bosnia and Herzegovina played out a 2-2 draw in the other fixture of Group D of the FIFA World Cup European Qualifiers.
Kazakhstan are the 5th team in the group and are still to play and they will have their work cut out when they host the world champions on Sunday.
France’s biggest test in the group will be on Wednesday when they face Bosnia away and if Deschamps’ side comes out on top in that one then you have to think that they will breeze through the rest of the group.
Deschamps was not too disappointed as he knows this was just the first game of the qualifiers and they have 9 games to go.
“Of course I can’t be satisfied. We had chances to increase our advantage and we didn’t take them,” Deschamps said.
“But let’s be honest after the break we did not exactly threaten them.”
France dominated possession as expected with 64% of the ball and went ahead after 19 minutes when Griezmann scored a beauty into the far top corner from the edge of the box.
The Barcelona forward is now the joint fourth top scorer alongside David Trezeguet in the list of France’s all-time goal scorers with 34 goals. Thierry Henry leads that list with 51 goals for Les Bleus.
Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud came close to scoring, but his header from Bayern Munich‘s Benjamin Pavard’s cross went just over the crossbar in the 32nd minute.
Ukraine, however, found an equaliser in the 57th minute when Sergiy Sydorchuk’s timid attempt was deflected by Kimpembe that gave French captain and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris no chance of keeping it out.
“With more freshness and some momentum we could do a lot better, but a lot of my players had played in their domestic leagues on Sunday,” Deschamps said.
Pogba made France look like a whole different outfit as they took it up a notch after coming on but Andriy Shevchenko’s side were happy to sit back and be defensively organised.
Barring Griezmann, most of France looked off the pace and Deschamps is confident that we will see the best of France in the next couple of games as they prepare for Kazakhstan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.