World champions Spain have become so imperious in recent years that a 1-1 home draw with Finland in World Cup qualifying is a major shock.
The Scandinavians are bottom of the group with just two points from their four games so far, but managed a very creditable draw in Gijon.
As per usual Spain dominated possession during the clash, but the visitors allowed the home side to keep hold of the ball, only allowing them to shot from long-range.
The strategy paid off perfectly when the Finns scored an equaliser on the counter-attack with just 12 minutes left on the clock.
The draw leaves Spain second in the group, after France defeated Georgia 3-1 in the Stade De France. France are now leading the group by two points with a crunch game between the two European giants still to come.
Los Rojas were expected to win the group without much trouble and some people had written off Les Bleus chances of clinching the automatic qualification spot in the group. However, Ribery and co. now have a major chance of automatic qualification if they don’t slip up.
This group was always going to be difficult to call, simply because France and Spain were in it. The other teams Georgia, Belarus and Finland are lightweights in international football and nobody expected them to upset the big boys.
France’s standing in the world rankings is somewhat misleading, considering the calibre of player in the team. The likes of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema could probably get in most international teams in the world.
Keeper Hugo Lloris is starting to look like a top-class performer in the Premier League with Tottenham as well, after a difficult start to his Spurs career.
France are not going to give that automatic spot up easily. They will be determined not to lose any points in the other games in the group.
The big game however will on Tuesday night as Spain visit the Stade De France. This game will have a major say in who will get that automatic qualification spot. Spain simply have to win or they could be praying for other teams to get results against France, which means that their destiny is in other teams hands.
Vicente Del Bosque’s team really can’t afford to be relying on the likes of Georgia, Belarus and Finland to beat France, despite the Finn’s draw in Gijon.
Should Spain fail to win in Paris then I think it’s safe to say that they will finish second in a play-off spot, a situation unimaginable when they won the European Championships last summer.
If they are in the play-offs I’m sure they will get through the two legged affair. I don’t think they would face another major European football nation in the draw, but even then they shouldn’t be complacent.
Spain are unlucky not to already be qualified for World Cup 2014 as reigning champions. This was the first World Cup in living memory in which the reigning champions haven’t automatically qualified for the competition finals.
A World Cup without the reigning champions is unthinkable. In fact a World Cup without the current Spain team is unthinkable, they are so iconic.
However, I don’t think we will have to worry about that as I believe that one-way or another Spain will be at World Cup 2014, even if it means getting there by the play-offs. That may not be necessary yet, so much hinges on Tuesday night’s clash, for both Spain and France.
Will Spain still win Group I?