Tuesday, October 16, 2012

France 1 - Spain 1; Belarus 2 - Georgia 0

Belarus were hoping a home date in Minsk would be the solution to their pointless start to their 2014 FIFA World Cup as Georgia came calling.  Belarus had their opener with Georgia defender Zurab Khizanishvili was stripped as he tried to clear.  The ball fell to Renan Bardini Bressan, who smacked home the opener for Belarus with five minutes gone. Bressan sent in a cross to the near post on a free kick later in the half.  Stanislav Dragun beat two defenders to the near post and rose to head home without any pressure.  Tornike Okriashvili nearly scored for Georgia directly off a corner kick, but Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Veremko knocked the ball off his crossbar as the halftime whistle blew.  Belarus took a 2-0 lead into the locker room.

With only nineteen minutes left on the clock, Belarus nearly had a third, but after latching onto a through ball Vitaly Rodionov fired onto the near post.  Georgia did not put on their best display, and they showed little attacking spirit in the second half, letting Belarus win comfortably 2-0.

Madrid was the site for the day's most anticipated qualifier as France came to town to face 2010 FIFA World Cup champions Spain.  Spain had the upper hand   The twenty-fifth minute was a rollercoaster of emotion for Spain center back Sergio Ramos.  Ramos had a free header that hit the post.  As Ramos held his head in his hands in disbelief, the ball magically returned to him, so he put it into the roof of the net for the Spanish opener.  Ramos celebrated his good fortune with a magnificent tumbling routine.  France nearly got the goal back nine minutes later.  Karim Benzema was on a breakaway when he fired low at the Spanish goal; however, Iker Casillas, his club teammate at Real Madrid was there in goal to make the save.  Benzema thought he had an assist two minutes on from the save when his header at the far post on a free kick allowed Jeremy Menez to head home at the near post and in, but Menez was deemed to be offside.  France center back Laurent Koscielny absolutely destroyed Pedro Rodriguez inside the penalty area a couple minutes on, but his goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a diving save of the resulting Cesc Fabregas penalty kick to keep France close.  Lloris had a double save on Rodriguez and Fabregas in the final minute of the half as well.  Spain led 1-0 after the first forty-five.

From then on, France rose into the ascendancy.  Benzema was again the danger man, this time sending in a chest-high cross to substitute Moussa Sissoko, who could not bring his shot below the level of the crossbar. In stoppage time, Sissoko made good when he started the game-tying fast break.  He slotted the ball off to Franck Ribery once France were in the attacking zone.  Ribery sent a ball to a spot eight yards from goal from where Olivier Giroud header to the far corner for the equalizer.  The match ends 1-1 with the two teams tied atop Group I.

Spain 7 pts +5
France 7 pts +3
Georgia 4 pts -2
Belarus 3 pts -5
Finland 1 pts -1

Renan Bardini Bressan 6
Stanislav Dragun 28

Sergio Ramos 25

Olivier Giroud 90+4

Match Reports:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uscNOVx6jog (Belarus v. Georgia)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj9FjjtXV0U&feature=related (Spain v. France)

Full Match Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBHS6YtFcqg (Belarus v. Georgia: first half)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlfZBIXWTjM (Belarus v. Georgia: second half)

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