World Cup qualifiers: France need a win, and a favor from Finland

Updated: 05 September 2013 19:37 IST

The Spanish are the favorites to win the group with the match at Finland followed by home games against Belarus and Georgia. But Finland has already shown it can play with Spain, holding the world champions to a 1-1 draw in March.

World Cup qualifiers: France need a win, and a favor from Finland

Georgia:

A win over Georgia and a favor from Finland are just what France need in World Cup qualifying.

The French are second in Group I, one point behind Spain. The Spanish play at Finland on Friday, while France visits Georgia.

"We know we have difficult games ahead of us. But Spain also has an important match in Finland, one of those teams will drop points," France defender Bacary Sagna said. "We have to take full advantage of any slip-up to reclaim first place, and we have to win both of our matches."

After the match in Tbilisi, France travels to play Belarus on Tuesday.

The Spanish are the favorites to win the group with the match at Finland followed by home games against Belarus and Georgia. But Finland has already shown it can play with Spain, holding the world champions to a 1-1 draw in March.

Georgia, which has only one win in qualifying, held out until the 86th minute before losing to Spain 1-0 and caused the French team problems on the counterattack despite a 3-1 loss at Stade de France in March.

"They have technical players who are very lively. They run at you and try to create openings," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "Georgia didn't give up until the end against Spain and almost equalized in the final minute."

France's problem is converting possession into goals, and winger Franck Ribery said it was because of a fear of failure.

"When a player tries something and it doesn't come off he loses confidence," the Bayern Munich midfielder said. "He doesn't feel good, is scared of being criticized."

Deschamps has kept faith with misfiring Karim Benzema - who has not scored in his past 14 matches for France - but time is running out for the Real Madrid forward to find his form with the national team.

Even though the 25-year-old Benzema is an established international with 59 appearances, and plays for one of the world's biggest clubs, he appears drastically low on confidence and the France squad constantly has to support him.

"People are pointing the finger at Karim because he's the center forward, but it's unfair," Sagna said. "As players we need to get behind him more and make things as easy as possible for him."

Deschamps prefers to deploy Benzema in a lone striker role, but said earlier this week that he may be tempted to push him out wide in order to allow Olivier Giroud to play through the middle.

Giroud has made a good start in his second season with Arsenal, scoring in all three league games so far.

"The coach has to make choices," Sagna said. "We're lucky to have two quality strikers and it should be one of our strengths."

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