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World Cup and reputation hang in balance for Spain in Paris

750   //    25 Mar 2013, 21:28 IST


Paris - After Friday’s unexpected setback at home to Finland, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque will look to experienced players when his side takes on France here Tuesday in football World Cup qualifier.

Spain’s 1-1 draw at home to Finland means that the Spanish now lie two points behind France in their World Cup qualifying group and knowing that failure to win Tuesday will mean direct qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals is no longer in their hands, reports Xinhua.

The world champions controlled virtually all of the game against Finland, but failed to score a second goal that would have finished their rivals off.

Spain beat the French with ease on the way to the 2012 European title last summer, but could only draw against their rivals 1-1 in the Vicente Calderon Stadium in their World Cup qualifying game last year and although France have problems of their own, such as the poor form of striker Karim Benzema, they will be roared on by a packed crowd in the Stade de France.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has to make one enforced change for Tuesday’s game with left back Jordi Alba out with a muscle injury. Alba will be replaced by Nacho Montreal in the starting 11, but Del Bosque will make other changes as well.

Xavi Hernandez, the Barca and Spain playmaker, was rested Friday as he looked to put the finishing touches to his recovery from a hamstring injury, while Xabi Alonso was not risked either as he has struggled with a groin problem in recent weeks.

Del Bosque will, however, put his faith in his two experienced midfielders here with Santi Cazorla and Cesc Fabregas making way. That would see Alonso partner Sergio Busquets in the holding role and Xavi given more freedom to produce a killer pass for David Villa, who will continue to lead the Spain attack.

The Spanish have a lot at stake: their reputation is most definitely on the line after home draws against the French and the Finns and failure to qualify directly for the 2014 World Cup would be a major surprise that would see questions asked over the current squad.

Although it seems unfair to question a side that won the 2008 European Championship and followed that with the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship, the backbone of the side has not changed with Alonso, Xavi, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Villa involved in all the three triumphs, along with goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, who misses these international games with a broken hand.

Meanwhile, 34-year-old Carles Puyol is also out with a knee problem, while Fernando Torres has lost form following his move to Chelsea over two years ago.

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