Soccer Picks: France vs. Ukraine World Cup Qualifier

Steven Suarez

Monday, November 18, 2013 6:00 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 6:00 PM UTC

The French have to forget all about the first leg as they try to overturn a two-goal deficit at home. Can they pull it off and become your soccer pick?

Odds Overview

As expected, France is set up as a clear favorite to win the return leg amongst sportsbooks. They can be found at anywhere from -225 to -250 soccer odds, with Ukraine a massive underdog in the area of +800. A draw is also quite a big long-shot at +350.

 How We Got Here

Since Spain was in their group, the French had to settle for second place in Group I. They secured five wins, two draws and one loss in eight matches while scoring 15 goals and allowing six.

Franck Ribery led the way with five goals in qualifying, but he didn't get much help from elsewhere. Olivier Giroud has been in fine goalscoring form for Arsenal, yet has found it difficult to replicate that return for his country.

Ukraine survived Group H, finishing in second with 21 out of 30 possible points, which was only one point behind group winner England.

With five goals, Andriy Yarmolenko has been the nation's top goalscorer, with Marko Devic (four) not far behind.

The First Meeting

The French were looking strong after beating Australia 6-0 in a friendly and then Finland 3-0 to wrap up their qualifying group, but they ran into a buzz-saw in the first leg against Ukraine.

It was a super disappointing showing from France, who started the likes of Ribery, Giroud, Paul Pogba, Samir Nasri and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

The score was tied 0-0 at halftime, but then Ukraine went to work. Roman Zozulya scored in the 61st minute and then Yarmolenko added an insurance goal from the penalty spot to give the home team a wonderful 2-0 victory.

France had their chances, but couldn't capitalize. Making matters worse, Laurent Koscielny was at fault for the penalty and then received his marching orders in stoppage time. He won't be available for Tuesday's match, which may actually end up being a blessing in disguise. Ukraine's Olexandr Kucher also got a red card and will therefore miss the deciding leg.

Who Goes Through?

Ukraine's away form so far in the campaign – they have three wins and two draws (+14 goal differential) in five matches – is very encouraging, but it's going to take a terrific all-around effort to keep this very talented (and motivated) France side at bay.

But, talent can only go so far. The French have all of the big names, but the Ukrainians showed to have much more chemistry on Friday and their formula worked wonders.

A World Cup without Les Bleus would be strange, there's no doubt about that, but it's not as if they really deserve a spot. This is a country that's been a disaster when it comes to international competition and it wouldn't be surprising if they disappoint once again.

So while we do think France has it in them to win the return leg, we're not so sure they'll do enough to win on aggregate. Ukraine has the luxury of setting up shop and defending for their lives should they choose to do so, but that may not be the best course of action, as that's just going to invite even more pressure.

That being said, we see Ukraine advancing to Brazil as our soccer pick, even if they do lose on Tuesday.

Soccer Pick: France 2 Ukraine 1

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Final Aggregate: France 2 Ukraine 3

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