France vs. Spain: Complete World Cup Qualifying Preview

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2013

France vs. Spain: Complete World Cup Qualifying Preview

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    The balance of power in Group I has shifted into France's favor following Friday night's matches.

    With Spain only managing a draw and the Blues recording a comprehensive win, the two swapped positions.

    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 neighbors on Tuesday leaves qualification out of their hands.

    There is the playoffs, though, so La Roja would still be likely to make Brazil 2014.

    Swipe through for a complete preview.

Team News

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    France went with 4-4-2 in their win against Georgia, featuring Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud up front—it's likely the latter will drop to the bench against Spain or the former will play deeper.

    They also started youngsters Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba, and it will be interesting to see if Deschamps again prefers them when La Roja visit.

    One man definitely not playing is Newcastle's Mathieu Debuchy. He pulled out of the squad after picking up an injury for his club.

    Therefore, PSG's Christophe Jallet should continue to fill the right-back slot.

    Two key components of the Spain midfield were missing in the draw with Finland: Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso.

    Both have struggled for fitness recently, playing only for their club sides in the bigger matches, but both hope to be involved on Tuesday.

    Jordi Alba is a slight doubt after picking up a knock on Friday night. Nacho Monreal is waiting to come into the side if he doesn't make it.

    Neither Carles Puyol nor Iker Casillas made the squad due to injury, so Victor Valdes should continue in goal in the absence of the latter.

    David Silva is also out for Spain, the yellow card he picked up against Finland leading to a suspension.


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    Since Didier Deschamps took over after Euro 2012, France's results have been inconsistent.

    They've drawn with Uruguay and lost to Japan and Germany in friendlies. Competitive results are beginning to look good, though.

    Three wins in Group I—against Georgia, Finland and Belarus—join a draw against Spain in Madrid.

    Spain's last defeat was 1-0 against England in a friendly back in November 2011.

    They haven't lost competitively since Switzerland surprised them in the opening fixture of the World Cup in 2010.

    So far in their qualifying group they've been unimpressive, though. They did beat Belarus 4-0, but labored to a win in Georgia and were held by Finland and France.

Last Time

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    A 94th-minute equalizer from Arsenal's Olivier Giroud ensured a share of the spoils when the two sides met at the Vicente Calderon last year.

    Sergio Ramos had given Spain a first-half lead, but France pushed on in the second half and got the goal they deserved.

    That point now seems ever more telling given Friday night's results.

    The two sides also met in the summer in the European Championships—Spain winning 2-0 to dump France out in the quarterfinal.

    Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso scored both the goals on his 100th appearance for La Roja.

Predicted Teams

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    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