World Cup: Spain move within touching distance of Brazil
Last Updated: 26/03/13 10:59pm
Celebration time: Spain welcome their win over France
Spain took a huge step towards qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after beating France in Paris to reclaim their place at the top of Group I.
A goal by Pedro on 58 minutes was enough to give Vicente Del Bosque's side the three points, and they will guarantee their place in Brazil next year if they can gain seven points from their final three qualifiers.
France gave a good showing of themselves but Spain created the better of the chances, and their task was made far easier when Paul Pogba was sent off on 78 minutes after picking up two yellow cards.
The European and world champions came into the match off the back of a shock draw at home to Finland but they were boosted by the return of midfielders Xabi Alonso and Xavi.
Spain were adamant they should have been awarded a penalty with half-an-hour gone when Pedro was brought down by the legs of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and Xavi was booked for protesting referee Viktor Kassai's decision to award nothing.
Del Bosque's side were then a much improved side after the break. Andres Iniesta almost gave them the lead following a sublime one-touch move involving Alonso and Xavi, but Lloris got a fingertip to the midfielder's shot to force a corner.
Pedro avoided a yellow card after a late tackle on Franck Ribery, and with Jesus Navas emerging from the dugout ready to come on, it looked as if the Barcelona forward was about to be taken off.
However, any plans to remove him were quickly shelved when he broke the deadlock a minute later.
The forward crossed the ball to Nacho Monreal on the left-hand side of the France penalty area and then raced to the far post to meet the full-back's diagonal ball, which Lloris failed to keep out.
Pogba was then sent off for two bookings in as many minutes to all but end France's hopes of equalising.
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Tue 26th Mar - Group B
Armenia0 - 3Czech Rep
Denmark1 - 1Bulgaria
Malta0 - 2Italy
Tue 26th Mar - Group F
Azerbaijan0 - 2Portugal
N Ireland0 - 2Israel
Tue 26th Mar - Group D
Estonia2 - 0Andorra
Turkey1 - 1Hungary
Netherlands4 - 0Romania
Tue 26th Mar - Group H
Ukraine2 - 1Moldova
Poland5 - 0San Marino
Montenegro1 - 1England
Tue 26th Mar - Group A
Serbia2 - 0Scotland
Belgium1 - 0Macedonia
Wales1 - 2Croatia
Tue 26th Mar - Group C
Rep Ireland2 - 2Austria
Germany4 - 1Kazakhstan
Tue 26th Mar - Group I
France0 - 1Spain
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||10||14|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I