Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spain 1 - France 0

Saint-Denis was the site of the decisive clash in Group I, with defending champions Spain needing a win on the road against France in order to reclaim pole position in the group.  Spain really should have taken the lead four minutes in, but Xavi Hernandez missed a open net after a pass from left back Nacho Monreal.  Franck Ribery had France's best chance in the opening half as he headed down Mathieu Valbuena's lofted through ball, but his first touch gave Spain goalkeeper Victor Valdes time to slide tackle the ball to safety.  The first half ended with no goals having been scored.

Valdes came off his line bravely ten minutes into the half to snatch the ball ahead of two open French players at the back post.  Andres Iniesta had a nifty flicked shot attempt tipped just over the French crossbar by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (pictured, yellow).  The breakthrough came soon thereafter as a Monreal cross found Pedro Rodriguez (pictured, red), who somehow pushed the ball over the line despite the challenge from Patrice Evra (pictured, blue) and Lloris, who lay prone across his goal line and managed to paw the ball but not redirect it out of his net.  Blaise Matuidi shot a hard, low grounder under a Gerard Pique slide, but again Valdes made a quick save on the ground.  With a quarter hour remaining, a French corner fell to Raphael Varane in a dangerous setting, but before he could find the ball Monreal had cleared it out-of-bounds off Varane.  Soon thereafter, Paul Pogba picked up two yellows in two minutes, leaving France down a man from minute 78 on through the finish.  Three minutes from time, Valdes miraculously denied an Evra header from three yards in front of him.  Valdes was a superhero and the French could not best him on this day.  Spain win 1-0.

Spain 11 pts +6
France 10 pts +4
Georgia 4 pts -4
Belarus 3 pts -5
Finland 2 pts -1

Pedro Rodriguez 58

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