Second-half goals from midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko and striker Artem Dovbyk helped Ukraine win 2-0 in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday and sent them to the Cup qualifiers of the world in second place behind France, winner of the track group.
Ukraine finished with 12 points in Group D, six points behind the Blues and one ahead of Finland. Ukraine are aiming for their first World Cup appearance since reaching the quarter-finals in 2006 and a chance to redeem themselves after losing a close game to France in 2014.
Finland lost 2-0 on Tuesday at home to the 2018 French champions, who took first place after beating Kazakhstan 8-0 on Saturday.
The Blues worked in the first half in the coldness of Helsinki, but the attack escalated when Real Madrid star Karim Benzema came on. He scored after combining with Kylian Mbappe, who added a brilliant second goal to continue his prolific form.
Already qualified for Qatar, the French started slowly at the Olympic stadium. Finland’s all-time top scorer, Teemu Pukki, managed a comfortably saved shot by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the 30th and shone on another effort as he sought his 34th international goal.
A gritty half was summed up when French right-back Leo Dubois retired with a right thigh injury and was replaced by Benjamin Pavard.
In order to open up the tight-knit Finland team, France coach Didier Deschamps called on Benzema for the ineffective Moussa Diaby and he approached in the 57th.
Benzema’s quick movement and technical ability were too good as he traded passes with Mbappe – who had scored four against the Kazakhs – to score with a slightly deflected shot in the 66th.
It was Benzema’s 36th in 94 matches for the Blues and the ninth in 13 matches since his recall by Deschamps for the European Championship this summer.
His partnership with Mbappe continues to improve.
“Given the team we have (the World Cup) is in a corner of our minds,” Benzema said. “We have our goals and they include winning the World Cup.”
Mbappe scored superbly in the 76th.
Transforming a defender on the halfway line, he sprinted to the left and brilliantly looped the ball just inside the penalty area in the lower right corner for his 24th international goal.
The 10 group finalists will be joined in the playoffs by two teams that won a Nations League group last year. The finalists with the six best records will first play at home in the semi-finals.
FIFA will draw for the playoffs on November 26 in Zurich.
The three winners of the playoffs final on March 29 will complete the line-up of the 13 European teams present in Qatar.
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