Spain held by Finland
Reigning champions may find it tough to qualify directly after 1-1 draw
Reigning champions Spain saw their chances of direct qualification for next year’s World Cup finals suffer a setback on Friday, a home draw against Finland leaving them two points adrift of new Group I leaders France.
Sergio Ramos celebrated winning his 100th cap by heading Spain in front early in the second-half. But that was as good as it got in the northern city of Gijon and Teemu Pukki’s goal 12 minutes from time stunned the reigning world and European champions.
With France beating Georgia 3-1 in Paris, it is Les Bleus who top the table by two points at the halfway stage. The French, now led by 1998 World Cup-winning skipper Didier Deschamps, had proved their mettle by drawing in Spain and goals by Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Valbuena and Franck Ribery saw off the Georgians.
Spain now have to look for a result in France on Tuesday and hope they will not be so profligate as they were on Friday, a series of missed chances prompting Vicente Del Bosque to bring on Pedro Rodriguez, who had scored nine times in his last six internationals, for Santi Cazorla.
An effort from the Barcelona man earned a corner and it was from the set-piece that Ramos headed in his ninth international goal. Thereafter, however, Spain drew a blank and Pukki snatched a point for the Finns as he ghosted in between Ramos and Gerard Pique to poke home.
Elsewhere, England stay firmly in the Group H mix after trouncing hapless San Marino 8-0 away, Jermain Defoe bagging a brace. But Roy Hodgson’s side still trail Montenegro by two points after the latter thanked a Mirko Vucinic goal for a 1-0 success at Moldova.
Germany were almost as businesslike as England, two quickfire first half goals and a second-half clincher cementing their remarkable record of never having lost an away World Cup qualifier after swatting Kazakhstan 3-0 in Astana.
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Goetze took the sting out of the game with two goals in as many first-half minutes and Thomas Mueller drove home low and hard for the third for Germany.
Other important results
Kazakhstan 0-3 Germany (Schweinsteiger, Goetze, Mueller) Estonia 0-3 Netherlands (van der Vaart, van Persie, Schaken) France (Giroud, Valbuena, Ribery) 3-1 Georgia (Kobakhidze ) Uruguay (Suarez) 1-1 Paraguay (Benitez) Czech Republic 0-3 Denmark (Cornelius, Kjaer, Zimling) Scotland (Hanley) 1-2 Wales (Ramsey, Robson-Kanu)