France must clear Ukraine hurdle as Europeans learn their road to Brazil

FORMER World Cup winners France must overcome Ukraine in the European play-offs to reach the finals in Brazil next year.

France, who won the tournament in 1998, finished second in their qualification group to holders Spain, while Ukraine were runners-up to England.

Elsewhere, Portugal will play Sweden, Iceland meet Croatia and Greece take on Romania.

France coach Didier Deschamps was satisfied with the draw, with history on their side having never lost to the eastern Europeans.

“Ukraine are a team who do not concede a lot of goals,” he said. “But it’s good we are playing the second leg at home.”

The two-legged tie between Portugal and Sweden pits two of the world’s best players, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Paris St-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, against each other.

And Sweden coach Erik Hamren believes their personal duel could be decisive.

“Ibrahimovic has been really good for us for a long time now. He [Ibrahimovic] is the match winner for us, a world class player, and they have one too,” said Hamren.

“You can have tactics and scouting, but a world class player like Ronaldo or Ibra can change a game and do something extra.”

The ties will be played on 15 and 19 November.

PLAY-OFF DRAW

Ukraine v France
Portugal v Sweden
Iceland v Croatia
Greece v Romania