Spain vs. France: World Cup Preview, Team News, Projected Lineups
Tuesday's Group I matchup is without doubt the marquee game of the World Cup qualifying campaign to date.
On the face of it, these are two unbeaten teams coming head to head in what could well prove to be the key result for automatic qualification to Brazil—but that's where the similarity ends.
Spain are unquestionably the best team in world football. They are unbeaten in an astonishing 46 World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and have won their last 24 in both competitions.
They are coming into the game on the back of a 4-0 demolition in Belarus; a match which saw Pedro score three identical goals and keeper Iker Casillas break the national record reaching 725 minutes without conceding a single goal.
While that game was going on, a beleaguered French team were conceding a late goal at home to Japan in an international friendly, which proved to be the only score in a horrible 1-0 loss.
France did have the lions share of possession during the game culminating in 20 shots but with no returns to show for their efforts against a team ranked 10 places below them by FIFA should not give management, players and fans too much optimism as they head to Madrid.
With only one nation guaranteed automatic qualification with the runners up having to enter the lottery of a two-legged playoff, the winner will take a huge step towards Brazil 2014.
Who Will Come Out On Top?
Vincente Del Bosque decided to leave Fernando Torres on the bench and employ Cesc Fabregas in Lionel Messi's false-9 role to great effect against Belarus. The Chelsea man will be hoping for a recall for the home game with France, as will Andres Iniesta, who made way for Santi Cazorla.
Sergio Busquets will hope to keep his place in defence alongside Sergio Ramos, with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique still a long way off from a return.
Projected lineup: 4-3-3 Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Busquets, Alba, Xavi, Alonso, Iniesta, Silva, Pedro, Torres.
Samir Nasri has still not returned to the squad despite serving his three-match ban, while Hatem Ben Arfa and Yani M'Vila continue to be left out after arguments about bonuses not being paid.
Abou Diaby, Alou Diarra and Rio Mavuba are all out, but Karim Benzema may well be given a more central role after failing to impress on the left against Japan.
There could well be a recall for Franck Ribery, whose indifferent performances continue to frustrate. Patrice Evra could also come into consideration as Didier Deschamps looks to add some much-needed stability.
Projected lineup:4-3-3 Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Koscielny, Sakho, Sissoko, Valbuena, Capoue, Giroud, Benzema, Ribery.
I fear for France, they are struggling badly during this transitional period, and until they get the likes of Ben Arfa and Nasri back in the squad, it's going to be an uphill struggle—especially against a team that can make 1,400 passes in a single game.
Spain 3 France 0
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