After last Friday's 2-0 loss to Ukraine in Kyiv -- a game marked by a series of Bad Decisions by Arsenal center-back Laurent Koscielny, the French national team needed a decisive win to keep its World Cup qualifying streak alive. 2-0 would have sent it to extra time and penalty kicks. 3-1 would have sent France home on the still-mystifying away goals tie-breaker. 3-0, though -- that would do it. (Though many French fans went all Jean-Paul Sartre on the team before yesterday's match, imagining no soccer and no World Cup merriment next summer.)
But -- ZUT EFFIN' ALORS! -- the French team came through yesterday, with Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and defender Bacary Sagna getting into the action as late-game subs. France put up a dramatic 3-0 lead over Ukraine, and then hung on to the magic margin in an electric finale featuring two Giroud headers -- one requiring an acrobatic save, and the other trundling over the crossbar. Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho improbably scored two goals in the match, with erstwhile Arsenal transfer rumor subject Karim Benzema scoring on a possibly-offside play minutes after the refs called back what appeared to be a Benzema goal on (of course) a questionable offside call.
In other international match news involving Arsenals, England and Germany had themselves a friendly -- the Dortmund/Schalke version of Germany (aka Germany B) won 1-0 on the strength of a late-first-half header by the very tall Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, who also had a near-miss with another header earlier in the game. Though prominent Arsenal internationals -- namely, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil -- were left off the lineups for this unimportant-yet-telling match, Kieran Gibbs played most of the second half spelling Ashley Cole, and Jack Wilshere saw action as a 64th-minute sub for Tom Cleverley.
Though some of you might not like international soccer, it's worth noting that the final slate of World Cup teams is now 31/32 there (and unless Jordan can overcome a 5-0 aggregate to Uruguay later today, go ahead and
pencil in Sharpie in Suarez and Co. into that final slot). The next chapter for England, France, and Germany's fortunes come Dec. 6 with the official World Cup draw, in which we find out which Arsenal players will find themselves in a Group of Death.