Patirce Evra 'inspired France to Brazil'
French players celebrate remarkable World Cup qualification
Yohan Cabaye has revealed Patrice Evra once again found the words to help inspire the France team to victory and clinch a place at the World Cup.
Despite being named on the bench, Evra, 32, had spoken up at half-time with Les Bleus struggling in September's qualifier in Belarus. The Manchester United defender's words provoked a French rally that led to a 4-2 win and kept France on course for Brazil.
With his country on the verge of elimination following their 2-0 loss in the first leg of their playoff in Ukraine, Evra made his voice heard in the players' tunnel before kick-off at the Stade de France on Tuesday. France won the match 3-0 to reach next year's finals in Brazil.
"Even without being told anything, we knew that we had not risen to the occasion and if we could have played them again on Saturday, we would have been hungry," Cabaye told RMC.
"In the tunnel, Patrice Evra said: 'Look closely at the Ukrainians, boys, because if we don't go to the World Cup, it'll be because of them'. We were ultra-motivated and even if the coach had not given us a team-talk, we would have been determined."
The hero of the hour remains Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho, whose goal -- his first in international football -- contributed to France's impressive comeback from their first-leg deficit.
Moussa Sissoko, who shares a room with Sakho on international duty, told RMC the centre-back had predicted 24 hours before the game he would find the net.
"I'm really happy for him," the Newcastle United midfielder explained. "We talked the day before the game, and he told me: 'Moussa, I feel I'm going to score'. When he did score, he ran over to the bench and I jumped on him. He proved he's a great defender who can bring something to the national side. Everyone played well, there's no criticism that can be made of any player. I hope it'll give us some punch for what is to come."
With Sakho's double and a Karim Benzema strike, France became the first European team to turn around a two-goal first-leg defeat. In the euphoria of one of the greatest nights in French football history, Mathieu Valbuena sounded a note of caution, reminding everyone just how close Les Bleus had come to missing out on a first major international tournament since 1994.
"What is regrettable is to have been in that situation," he told Le Phoceen. "We always need to have our backs to the wall to react. It's good that we were able to inspire ourselves, that shows there's character in the squad, but it's a warning. We have to take note of that. We were on the brink of a catastrophe."