Grading the Spain Players in Their World Cup Qualifier Against France
Spain moved back into pole position in their qualification group with a vital 1-0 win over France in Paris.
Pedro Rodriguez made and scored the only goal of the game as hopes of Brazil 2014 without the playoffs were revitalized.
The Barcelona forward beat two men before switching the ball to Nacho Monreal on the left flank. He then had the energy to burst into the French box and bundle home the Arsenal full-back's cross.
Les Blues were then reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Paul Pogba but still could have equalized at the end.
Mathieu Valbuena's cross was headed towards goal by Patrice Evra, only for Victor Valdes to produce a vital save.
On another glorious night for La Roja, here are their player ratings...
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Victor Valdes: 9
In years gone by, he wouldn't have necessarily been Iker Casillas' understudy, but he proved his worth tonight. He dealt with a variety of Mathieu Valbuena crosses, made crucial saves against Blaise Matuidi and had one particularly impressive stop against a clean-through Frank Ribery in the first half at 0-0. The best was saved till last, though, expertly saving an Evra header in the last five minutes.
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Alvaro Arbeloa: 6
For large parts of the game, he looked comfortable, blocking Karim Benzema well in the early stages and linking with Pedro well on the right wing. His relentless pressing of Frank Ribery in the early stages of the second half was good too, but as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, he looked susceptible up against Ribery.
Sergio Ramos: 6
Carried the ball from the back and was the focal point for most of Spain's attacking moves. A lack of corners meant he couldn't have much effect in the final third, and he wasn't overly commanding defending set-pieces from France. Ramos was turned a couple of times, once by Ribery cleverly after 38 minutes, but Monreal was about to tidy up.
Gerard Pique: 7
Will feel he could have done better when Ribery escaped for his golden chance shortly before half-time, which Valdes did well to save. Other than that, Pique looked fairly solid, but like Ramos, was not quite as commanding as normal. One covering tackle on Mathieu Valbuena early on was particularly tasty, though.
Nacho Monreal: 8
No Jordi Alba? No worries. Filling in, Nacho Monreal did a wonderful job of balancing both defensive and attacking play. He set up an early chance for Xavi after five minutes and combined with Pedro for what proved the winner. At the back, he vitally intercepted Ribery on 38 minutes and won a goal kick off Raphael Varane when the Real Madrid defender looked likely to score.
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Sergio Busquets: 7
As the deepest of the midfield three, Busquets was reliable throughout. Smart footwork drew a foul from Blaise Matuidi in the first half, and more clever play saw him slip between two French players 10 minutes later. Busquets got forward to set up a Pedro effort after 20 minutes, too, and he was on hand to tackle Frank Ribery on one dangerous occasion in the second half.
Returned from injury to again be the midfield passing metronome that he so often is, but will be disappointed with his contribution in the final third considering his chances. He missed a great chance after five minutes from a Monreal cross, fired wide from 18 yards and couldn't beat the wall with a handily placed free kick. Still, he kept the ball as well as ever, tiring as expected.
Xabi Alonso: 7
Appeared up for the match having missed the Finland game on Friday but tired toward the end. His passes between the lines, long and short, were particularly effective in Spain's attacking play—like his one to set up Xavi's effort after 18 minutes. He could have had a goal himself, but the shot blazed over from Iniesta's set up inside the last 10 minutes.
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Andres Iniesta: 7
The starting line up suggested Iniesta would be slightly to the left of the attacking three—in truth, he had freedom to drop into areas where he felt he could do most damage. He played in Nacho Monreal for Xavi's early chance, sent the through ball for Pedro's penalty shout and forced a great save from Hugo Lloris just after the break.
David Villa: 5
Didn't quite carry his recent good form for Barcelona into this match. That said, he was quite isolated as more or less a traditional No.9. His most memorable moments were a weak effort dragged wide in the first half and a tumble in the box in the second, which never looked like a penalty. Jesus Navas replaced him on the hour.
Pedro Rodriguez: 8
Not only scored the winner, but made it, too, with a tricky run and great pass to set up Nacho Monreal's cross, which he bundled in. Pedro should have had a penalty in the first half almost had a second goal just after the hour following good work from Jesus Navas. He proved a constant threat with his clever runs.
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Jesus Navas: 7
Introduced with half an hour left and made an immediate impact. Spain had just gone 1-0 up, but Navas caused panic down the France left-hand side and created a number of chances with his old fashioned wing play.
Cesc Fabregas: 5
Came on for Pedro for the last 15 minutes at a time when Spain were defending their 1-0 lead. He wasn't overly involved.
Juan Mata: N/A
Replaced Andres Iniesta in stoppage time.