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Spain face France in must win away battle

Spain face France in must win away battle
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The prospect of the reigning world champions missing next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil will become a very real one if stumbling Spain suffer another slip-up in France on Tuesday evening.

Vicente Del Bosque’s side have not lost a competitive match since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but two consecutive home draws have seen them fall behind France in this qualifying campaign.

After being held 1-1 by France in Madrid in October, La Roja allowed Finland to escape with a draw by the same score in Gijon on Friday and are now two points adrift of the French at the top of Group I.

‘The result is disastrous,’ admitted David Villa after Spain failed to add to Sergio Ramos’ opener against the group’s bottom nation despite monopolising possession and camping in the opposition half, and Finland hit back to equalise late on.

Lose at the Stade de France and Spain will be five points behind Didier Deschamps’ side with just three matches remaining, all but ending their chances of qualifying automatically.

‘This game will be a final for both teams,’ striker Alvaro Negredo told Spanish media, before adding: ‘We have the quality to win in any stadium in the world.’ Negredo was one of several attackers used by Del Bosque over the course of Friday’s game, but Spain just could not kill off a well-organised Finnish side.

However, France are likely to adopt a more attacking approach and Negredo believes that will play into Spain’s hands. ‘This game will be different to the rest of the qualifying campaign,’ he added. ‘It will be much more open, against a team that will try to create chances and will leave us spaces.


MESSI WARY OF BOLIVIA HEIGHTS

Argentina may be cruising towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but world player of the year Lionel Messi is still nervous ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Bolivia. The South American heavyweights are four points clear at the top of the qualifying table and enjoy an 11-point gap to the first team outside the four automatic qualifying positions with just six games left. Yet the trip to La Paz brings with it some bad memories for Messi and his teammates. Last time Argentina played there in 2009 they were humiliated 6-1 and the Barcelona magician has not forgotten the uncomfortable feelings he had high up in the Andes that day. “Bolivia is going to be very difficult because of the altitude. I have very bad memories from the last time,” he admitted.“It’s hard to judge the bounce of the ball and I remember feeling very short of breath.” Despite a side boasting the likes of Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and Javier Zanetti, under the chaotic guidance of legend Diego Maradona, Argentina suffered their biggest defeat in 16 years when they last visited La Paz.
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