The changes seemed subtle, but they turned out to be pivotal. Nasri benefited immensely from playing in his favorite position, seeing the ball a lot more in the final third and having three options for passes available. As a result, his unfortunate tendency to venture down blind alleys when playing on the wing was completely negated. Ménez also had a good game, keeping his position on the right to stretch the leggy Ukraine defense. His goal broke the deadlock for Les Bleus and gave a visible lift to the rest of the team.
As France was able to control the midfield with only one out-and-out holding player -- Alou Diarra of Marseille -- it had five men available to attack. The passing and movement was simply too much for the hosts. Despite not scoring, Benzema looked a lot less isolated than he did against England. The striker set up both goals with excellent passes.
Ever since Ribéry burst onto the scene as a late addition to the 2006 World Cup squad, France has been waiting on an authoritative tournament from him. Les Bleus desire the kind of consistent brilliance that elevates him to the ranks of the true greats, the Zidanes and Platinis. Friday night was just a start, but perhaps Ribéry is beginning to fulfill his promise at last.