Deschamps hoping for ‘perfect game’ against Spain

Spain still the best team in the world despite slip-up against Finland, insists France manager

Finland players celebrate their 1-1 draw with Spain last week. Photograph: Eloy Alonso/Reuters

Finland players celebrate their 1-1 draw with Spain last week. Photograph: Eloy Alonso/Reuters


France coach Didier Deschamps is not letting Spain’s surprise slip-up against Finland lull him into a false sense of security ahead of tomorrow’s crunch World Cup qualifier between the two, warning his players they are still facing the best team in the world.

Deschamps also believes his side will need to play a “perfect” match if they are to defeat the reigning world and European champions and take a huge step towards securing automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup finals.

Les Bleus head into the clash at the Stade de France holding a two-point lead over the Spanish at the top of Group I after receiving an unexpected boost from Finland on Friday night.

While France were beating Georgia 3-1, Spain were being held 1-1 at home by the last-placed Finns — Teemu Pukki’s 79th-minute equaliser cancelling out Sergio Ramos’ goal in Gijon.

Deschamps admits that result came as a shock but is not reading too much into it.

He told Spanish daily AS: “Yes, it was a great surprise. I saw the game and Spain deserved to win. Nevertheless this result changes nothing. Spain are still the best team in the world. They were before, they are now and they will be after tomorrow’s match.

“There’s been no change in my intentions, nor in Spain’s. They will come to have control of the ball and to win the game.”

A French victory tomorrow would put them five points clear at the top of Group I and, with only three games to come afterwards, it would need something special to deny the 1998 world champions first place in the five-team pool.

Even a draw would leave Les Bleus as favourites to take top spot and consign Spain to a likely spot in the play-offs, but Deschamps is not looking too far ahead.

“It’s true that for us, now, there are two positive results tomorrow — the win and the draw. But a draw would not give us much of a guarantee because it would oblige us to win every match that is left,” he said.

“We have to have a great game against the best team in the world. Their draw against Finland was incredibly bad luck, looking at the chances they had.

“To beat Spain we will have to have a perfect game, we know this.”

Spain’s setback against Finland was the second successive home qualifier where they have dropped points, having also drawn 1-1 with France in October.

The pressure is now on Vicente del Bosque’s side — who could be boosted by the return of key midfield duo Xavi and Xabi Alonso in Paris following injury — but defender Gerard Pique has laughed off any suggestions Spain’s bubble might be beginning to burst after five years of almost total domination.

The Barcelona defender said: “I’ve been through this with Barca and now the national team. And neither surprises me.

“In this country we’re not used to it, and when we have a little setback we talk of an end of a cycle, but this is a young team and they are going to be around for many years.”

Regarding tomorrow’s match, Pique added: “We knew we had to go to France to win. We didn’t expect the result against Finland, but sometimes, even if you are the better team, you don’t win.

“Now we simply have to win against France, because that’s the only thing that is worth anything to us.”