France v Spain: World Cup Qualifier Match Preview

By 26 March 2013 08:43

The pressure is on for Spain to beat France in Paris on Tuesday, or risk failing to qualify automatically for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Didier Deschamps now sees his men sit proudly at the top of the table with 10 points from their four games.

Vicente del Bosque's side are only two points back, but anything other than a win against their northern neighbours on Tuesday leaves qualification out of their hands.

Only the team which finishes first is guaranteed an automatic route to next year's finals in Brazil - with the eight best runners-up from nine UEFA groups going into the play-offs.

The first match in the group between France and Spain ended in a 1-1 draw when Olivier Giroud's 94th-minute equaliser earned the visitors an invaluable point.

Spain's outlook took a major turn for the worse in Gijon last week, when despite dominating possession throughout at El Molinon, Teemu Pukki's 79th-minute strike denied the hosts maximum points.

It has become a familiar story for the Spain. Adept at keeping the ball, they have often struggled to breakdown opponents who set out with the sole purpose of denying space to the world and European champions.

The first team which dared to attack Spain was Italy in the tournament's final, and they were demolished 4-0, offering a warning to any side foolhardy enough to stray from the blueprint of an ultra-defensive approach.

It is unlikely Didier Deschamps will make the same mistake at the Stade de France this week. Despite an abundance of attacking and creative talent in their squad, caution will be the watchword for the hosts, and a draw would be a welcome return as they seek to preserve their two-point buffer at the top of the standings.

Highly rated youngsters Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane impressed on debut in the win over Georgia, but inexperience could count against them when Deschamps names his next line-up. Varane's Real Madrid colleague Karim Benzema may be dropped after he endured another poor display in front of goal.

For Spain, midfielder Cesc Fabregas was deployed in a central attacking role last week, with Barcelona's David Villa and Sevilla man Alvaro Negredo the only dedicated strikers in Del Bosque's squad.

Predicted Line Ups:

France: Hugo Lloris; Cristophe Jallet, Raphael Varane, Mamadou Sakho, Gael Clichy; Yohann Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi; Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema, Frank Ribery; Oliver Giroud

Spain: Victor Valdes; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Nacho Monreal; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso; Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Pedro Rodriguez

Source: DSG

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