By March 26, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

WCQ: France vs. Spain Preview and Key Players To Watch

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spainTwo of the best teams in the world face off Tuesday in a crucial World Cup Qualifying match as Spain visits Paris to take on a strong French squad that currently sits two points ahead of the defending champions for first place in the group.

Tuesday’s match is particularly important because only the first place team in the final group standings automatically qualifies for the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The remaining spots in the tournament will be determined in a playoff system involving the best eight runners up from nine UEFA groups, which no team wants to be in for the simple fact that in football, anything can happen.

Spain is coming off a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Finland on Friday in which the team had trouble creating chances and finishing, while Finland played their butts off to earn a goal and ultimately a historic point against a world giant. The draw to Finland may prove ultimately more important if the team is unable to get a good result in France on Tuesday, which seems very possible after a poor showing on Friday. However, even after the lapse against Finland, Spain can still hang its hat on the fact that it has gone 24 straight matches (June of 2010) since a loss.

On the other side, France is coming off a relatively easy 3-1 win against Georgia in which Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Valbuena, and Franck Ribery contributed goals. With a strong lineup set for Tuesday, Les Bleus are confident and looking to further secure an automatic bid into next year’s World Cup. France will be even more confident remembering their 1-1 draw away at Spain back in October where Giroud scored a last minute header to gain an important point in the group that shines even brighter now. With home pitch advantage on Tuesday, the fans will be a huge help as the defending World Cup and European champions come to town.

Let’s take a look at some of the key players to watch in Tuesday’s match:

Olivier Giroud

Not the first name you think of when you think of the French National Football team, but after a crucial goal against Spain in their first meeting and another on Friday against Georgia, Giroud has earned the right to be called a key player for France.

The Arsenal striker has performed relatively poorly for his club side Arsenal, but seems to be at home playing with Les Bleus. As a big target striker, Giroud has good aerial ability and strength that could bother a rather small Spanish lineup. Watch for Giroud to be a big threat on corner kicks and free kicks, as well as a big target man on goal kicks in order to involve the playmakers like Ribery, Valbuena, and Benzema.

Andres Iniesta

Clearly one of the best players in the world, Andres Iniesta has an impact on the match every time he steps on the pitch. His craftiness, poise, and pure skill is unmatched by almost every player in the world and his ability to involve others, trick defenders, and earn free kicks is second to none. Iniesta scored the match-winning goal in the 2010 World Cup Final against the Netherlands and hasn’t looked back. As a consistent fixture for the world’s best team Barcelona, and for his country of Spain, Iniesta has shown himself to be irreplaceable, and the only reason he is not celebrated more is because of club teammates Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez who have similar world-class ability. Watch for Iniesta to be a huge part of the result on Tuesday.

Sergio Ramos

This Real Madrid defender has been slowly converted from an outside back to a center back for both club and country and has done spectacularly well. His pace, strength, and bravery personify the Spanish way and his leadership has become one of his most coveted attributes. One of the biggest questions surrounding Ramos was his ability to play together with club rival Gerard Pique at center back, but Ramos and Pique have proved that despite their rivalry, great players can gel with other great players if their attitudes are right. On Tuesday, Ramos will have the unpleasant task of keeping an eye on club teammate Karim Benzema for 90 minutes, which will be a key matchup to watch. However, to avoid one-on-one confrontations, Spain does have the ability to possess the ball like no one else, which could help Ramos conserve energy for his battles against the French strike

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