Posted: Friday June 15, 2012 3:09PM ; Updated: Friday June 15, 2012 5:06PM

France comes alive in second half, beats co-host Ukraine in Group D

Story Highlights

After a scoreless first half, France netted two second-half goals to beat Ukraine

Jeremy Menez scored in the 53rd minute, Yohan Cabaye followed suit in the 56th

France's victory extends its current unbeaten streak to 23 consecutive matches

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
Jeremy Menez scored the match's first goal in the 53rd minute in France's 2-0 victory over co-host Ukraine.
Jeremy Menez scored the match's first goal in the 53rd minute in France's 2-0 victory over co-host Ukraine.
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Ukraine
Ukraine0
France
France2
Final :: Donetsk, Ukraine
Menez 53'
Cabaye 56'

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- France won a match at a major tournament for the first time since Zinedine Zidane's head-butt, beating Ukraine 2-0 Friday in a storm-delayed match at the European Championship.

Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored early in the second half for the French, who last won a major match in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup. In the final of that tournament, Zidane was given a red card for his head-butt in the last match of his career.

"We scored twice and could have had more," France coach Laurent Blanc said. "We have a lot of potential."

Friday's match at the Donbass Arena was suspended for nearly an hour because thunder, lightning and torrential rain forced the players off the field after five minutes. It resumed almost an hour later.

After a 1-1 draw with England in its opening match, France has four points in Group D, one more than Ukraine. The French also extended their unbeaten run to 23 games.

"I congratulated my players and the Ukrainian players," Blanc said. "It was a good match with both teams trying to attack."

Both France goals were the product of the one-touch passing and movement that was once the team's hallmark.

For the first, Franck Ribery gathered the ball on the left, sprinted forward and then set up Karim Benzema near the penalty area. The Real Madrid forward stroked the ball to Menez, who then cut inside and drilled a low shot inside the near post with his left foot.

The goal justified Blanc's decision to replace veteran midfielder Florent Malouda with Menez, although the Paris Saint-Germain winger had two earlier chances denied by the legs of Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.

France's second goal was another example of exquisite teamwork, with Ribery and Samir Nasri combining to find Benzema. He cushioned the ball and then split the Ukraine center halves with a superbly weighted pass that allowed Cabaye to run on and finish with an angled shot.

With France's confidence peaking in Donetsk, Cabaye almost added a third midway through the second half with a half-volley that hit the middle of the right post.

The exasperated whistles from the frustrated home fans at the Donbass Arena grew in intensity, and by the time Nasri forced a late save from Pyatov with a curling free kick, the home fans were already leaving.

"It wasn't easy because they had a whole stadium behind them," Blanc said.

But for the French fans, it was finally something to sing about after going out of the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 at the group stage.

Moments before kick off, the rain intensified as about 49,000 soaked Ukrainians gave a searing rendition of their national anthem after a clap of thunder had interrupted France's "La Marseillaise."

When crackles of lightning lit up the sky, referee Bjoern Kuipers made a quick decision in the fifth minute that the players' safety and the drenched field made it impossible to continue.

When the players returned, Menez should have given France the lead in the 28th. Ribery intercepted a dreadful back pass from midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk and hit a quick cross that ball rolled behind Benzema and fell to Menez - but Pyatov kicked his effort away.

Ukraine's only clear chance of the match fell to Andriy Shevchenko in the 35th. He found space behind right back Mathieu Debuchy and hit a firm strike from about 10 meters (yards) that was blocked by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Pyatov saved Ukraine again on either side of halftime, tipping away Philippe Mexes' header and denying Menez again with his legs.

After Shevchenko drew a hopeful roar from the crowd with a powerful rising shot, Ukraine's efforts fizzled out.

---

Lineups:

Ukraine: Andriy Pyatov, Oleh Gusev, Taras Mykhalyk, Yevhen Khacheridi, Yevhen Selin, Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Andriy Voronin (Marko Devic, 46), Andriy Yarmolenko (Olexandr Aliyev, 68), Serhiy Nazarenko (Artem Milevskiy, 59), Yevhen Konoplianka, Andriy Shevchenko.

France: Hugo Lloris, Mathieu Debuchy, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexes, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Alou Diarra, Yohan Cabaye (Yann M'Vila, 68), Jeremy Menez (Marvin Martin, 73), Karim Benzema (Olivier Giroud, 76), Franck Ribery.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs NFL schedule LaMarcus Aldridge Michael Pineda Phil Jackson Tiger Woods
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint