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UEFA World Cup qualifying: France v Georgia

France need maximum points against Georgia if they are to escape a 2014 World Cup qualifying group which also includes Spain.

Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain proved France’s undoing at Euro 2012, winning their quarter-final match-up 2-0 in Donetsk.

That result marked France’s latest disappointment in major tournaments, after group-stage exits from Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

Their next challenge appears to be simply reaching the FIFA showpiece in Brazil next year, after Didier Deschamps’ team were thrown into a qualifying pool with reigning world and European champions Spain.

So far France have acquitted themselves well, beating Finland 1-0 away and Belarus 3-1 at home.

They also avoided defeat in the first of two meetings with recent nemesis Spain, snatching a 1-1 draw at Estadio Vicente Calderon thanks to Olivier Giroud’s 94th-minute equaliser.

And that result could well prove vital for Deschamps’ men.

They must now see off the visit of Georgia to the Stade de France on Friday, before what looms as the pivotal clash in Group I – the return fixture between France and Spain in Paris four days later.

While the imminent showdown with Spain is sure to be prominent in the thoughts of players and fans alike, Deschamps has warned his charges not to underestimate the challenge posed by Georgia.

Coached by ex-Newcastle United player Temuri Ketsbaia, Georgia kept out Spain for 86 minute of their match in Tbilisi last year, before Roberto Soldado’s late goal shattered the hosts’ hopes of a earning what would have been a memorable draw.

Georgia recorded a 2-1 friendly win over Albania in their last outing, and also managed draws against Egypt and Finland in recent games, although their own World Cup qualification hopes took a hit in the form of a 2-0 loss to Belarus.

On Friday they can expect to come up against an evolving France team, with many of the players picked by Deschamps light on international experience.

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery is the most capped player in the squad with 71 appearances, with the likes of Karim Benzema (55 caps), Patrice Evra (48) and Hugo Lloris (44) among the most senior.

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and impressive Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane are in line to make their international debuts, and have been earmarked by many as future cornerstones of the French national team.

Thu 21 March, 2013
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