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Mar 23, 2013

Spain looks to regroup ahead of France

Vincente del Bosque was lost for words after his Spain side played out a grim 1-1 draw with Finland on Friday night.

The reigning World and European champions are second in World Cup qualifying Group I as a result and trail leaders France by two points.

With games running out, the pair meet in Saint-Denis on Tuesday and a France win would not only end Spain's 19-game unbeaten run, but also push Spain closer to having to go to a playoff.

The nine group winners qualify for the World Cup, while the top eight second-placed teams play two-legged ties to decide the last four teams from UEFA.

With all that in mind, Del Bosque was not happy with a point against the minnows, with Sergio Ramos' early goal on his 100th appearance canceled out by Teemu Pukki.

"We failed to finish off the game with the second goal," said Del Bosque in his postgame media conference. "Finland defended well and then the unthinkable happened and they scored a goal. We could have been more clinical in front of goal but to not have won is too big a punishment."

The trip to France looks even harder considering Spain left back Jordi Alba is returning to Barcelona after suffering a hamstring injury Friday, his club confirmed.

"Jordi Alba will return to Barcelona to undergo tests by the club's medical services after he picked up an injury to his right hamstring during the Spain-Finland match," a Barcelona statement read. "Barcelona will reveal the extent of the player's injury on Sunday."

David Silva (banned) will also miss the game, but Del Bosque is retaining hope.

"We rely on ourselves and have a great team," he said.

France heads into Tuesday's eagerly awaited qualifier on a high but aware of the test that awaits it.

While Spain is smarting from its grim draw with Finland, France is content with beating Georgia 3-1.

It could not have been easier for Didier Deschamps' side but, according to goalscorer Mathieu Valbuena, France cannot get too confident.

A win Tuesday would France as sure bets to qualify, but speaking to the French media last night, Valbuena said: "We approach this meeting with much more confidence.

"Before the game, everyone we spoke of Spain, but the most important thing was to beat Georgia to put in a good mood. Spain drew with Finland and that shows there are no small matches at international level, so we need to be even more wary."

The carrot could not be more lucrative for France, though. A five-point lead would give Les Bleus total command of the group.

"This is the scenario that everyone wants," the Marseille midfielder added. "It will need a good rest to prepare well for this game. It is against the best team in the world."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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