x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

World Cup 2014 qualifying: Spain back on top after victory over France

The reigning champions eased concerns of not qualifying for Brazil 2014 after a 1-0 win via Pedro's second-half goal, while Venezuela claimed a shock win over Colombia.

Spain's players celebrate after Pedro's winning goal beat France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Spain's players celebrate after Pedro's winning goal beat France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Vicente del Bosque was in a relieved mood after seeing his Spain side beat France in Paris to return to the top of World Cup qualifying Group I.

The World Cup holders went into the match two points behind Didier Deschamps' side following their shock draw with Finland on Friday and they needed a win to put their destiny back in their own hands.

Pedro's solitary second-half strike ensured Spain moved to the top of Group I, with France's misery compounded by Paul Pogba's red card.

"The last few days have been uncomfortable because there was a possibility we could have gone five points behind France, but the players showed great maturity," said Del Bosque afterwards.

"It could have been a bigger scoreline but we have worked hard and suffered right until the end."

Spain need just seven points from their remaining three matches to guarantee their place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and Del Bosque highlighted the significance of the victory, whilst also expressing his pleasure with the way his team performed.

"We are very happy with these three points because they put us in a great position," he said.

"We got the result by playing in our own style. We should never change the way we play, because it has served us very well.

"I am someone who does have doubts now and again and I think it would be foolish not to, so this result is extremely important for us. We affirmed our ideas and showed conviction out on the pitch."

Didier Deschamps, the France coach, said he was proud of the way his side kept battling even when down to 10 men.

"We kept battling, even when down to 10 men, but it is not easy against a team that dominates like Spain do," he said.

"You need to take your chances and get some breaks, and that wasn't the case for us."

Germany moved five points clear of Sweden at the top of Group C after their Borussia Dortmund connection inspired them to a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan.

Marco Reus was on target twice with Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan also scoring for Joachim Low's men.

Greuther Furth's Heinrich Schmidtgal scored a consolation for the visitors, who caused Germany an unexpectedly high number of problems in the second half.

Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Khacheridi helped 10-man Ukraine edge to a 2-1 win over Moldova, who grabbed a late consolation through Alexandr Suvorov, with their hopes of a point briefly raised when Taras Stepanenko was dismissed for violent conduct in injury time.

Robert Lewandowski scored two penalties either side of Lukasz Piszczek's strike, while Lukasz Teodorczyk and Jakub Kosecki were also on the scoresheet as Poland hammered San Marino 5-0.

Holland maintained their perfect record in Group D as two goals from Robin van Persie helped them earn a convincing 4-0 win over Romania at the Amsterdam ArenA.

Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring in the 11th minute, while after the break Van Persie struck twice, the second a penalty, and Jeremain Lens added a fourth in the last minute.

Substitute Daniel Bode earned a 1-1 draw for Hungary at Turkey, who had taken the lead through Burak Yilmaz, while goals either side of half-time from Henri Anier and Joel Lindpere gave Estonia a 2-0 win over fellow group minnows Andorra.

Mario Balotelli continued his hot streak in front of goal with a brace to fire Italy to a 2-0 victory over Malta in Group B.

Gianluigi Buffon did have to deny Malta's Michael Mifsud from the spot, though, before Balotelli netted his second as Italy did enough to pull three points clear of Bulgaria.

Lyuboslav Penev's side reached 10 points with a 1-1 draw in Denmark, who secured a point from a Daniel Agger penalty after Stanislav Manolev had put the visitors in front.

Elsewhere in the group, Matej Vydra bagged a brace before substitute Daniel Kolar rubber-stamped a 3-0 victory for the Czech Republic at Armenia.

Eden Hazard was on the scoresheet as Belgium maintained their position as leaders of Group A with a 1-0 victory over Macedonia.

Second-half goals from Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida helped stuttering Portugal to a 2-0 Group F victory at 10-man Azerbaijan, who had Rauf Aliyev sent off for two bookings in Baku.

Algeria moved to the top of Group H with a 3-1 win over 10-man Benin.

It took just 10 minutes for the home side to go in front through Sofiane Feghouli, but that was cancelled out by Rudy Gestede in the 28th minute.

However, Algeria regained the lead with Saphir Taider's strike on the hour and, after goalkeeper Fabian Farnolle saw red for Benin five minutes from time, Islam Slimani put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time.

The win lifts Algeria above their opponents and level on points with previous leaders Mali.

Argentina suffered a scare before coming from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Bolivia.

Alejandro Sabella's side were thrashed 6-1 by the visitors when the sides last met in the thin air of La Paz in qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.

Another upset looked on the cards when Bolivia striker Marcel Martins headed the home side into a 25th-minute lead.

But Argentina - who had impressed in a 3-0 win over Venezuela in Buenos Aires last Friday -- grabbed a share of the points when Valencia's Ever Banega headed in the equaliser shortly before half-time.

Argentina might even have taken all three points but captain Lionel Messi squandered a golden chance when one-on-one with Bolivia keeper Sergio Galarza six minutes from time.

Ecuador narrowed the gap on Argentina to four points after coming from behind against Paraguay to win 4-1.

Luis Caballero opened the scoring for the visitors after 15 minutes, rifling home a low shot, before the hosts took control, with Jefferson Montero winning a free kick which was bundled home by Felipe Caicedo.

Montero turned scorer early in the second half, then set up Christian Benitez to head home a third before wrapping up the scoring with his second on the 74th minute.

Chile moved above Uruguay with a 2-0 win which puts them into the qualification zone, while Colombia fell to a 1-0 defeat at Venezula, putting the hosts closer to their dream of a first ever World Cup finals. Jose Salomon Rondon scored in the 14th minute as his side held off intense pressure from Colombia to secure the victory.

The USA recorded only their second ever away point against Mexico in qualifying history after a 0-0 draw at the Azteca Stadium.

Brad Guzan weathered an onslaught from the Mexico attack, who failed to capitalise on 15 corner kicks against Jurgen Klinsmann's side.

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