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March 26, 2013
• Stade de France, Paris
Referee: V. Kassai
• Attendance: 78329
That's all from me for tonight guys and girls! I've been Charlie Scott, and you've been great as always. Good bye!
FULL-TIME: FRANCE 0-1 SPAIN Vicente del Bosque's side returned to the top of Group I with a well-earned victory over France at the Stade de France in Paris this evening, thanks to a second-half goal from Pedro. The Barcelona attacker notched his 10th international goal of the season following decent wingplay from Nacho Monreal. France did have chances to score, but Victor Valdes produced two fine stops to keep out Ribery and Evra either side of half-time. The home side's misery was compounded late on as Paul Pogba was sent off for two bookable offences in the space of a minute. With three games each left to play, Spain are in the driving seat in Group I, as they sit one point ahead of Les Bleus.
90' + 4'
AND THERE IS THE FINAL WHISTLE!! Spain are the winners here!
90' + 3'
90' + 3'
That's more decent play in the closing stages from Spain. Fabregas wins a free kick on this occasion, after gliding past a couple of challenges on the left.
90' + 2'
90' + 2'
Spain use up some time by bringing on Juan Mata for the imperious Iniesta.
90' + 1'
GOOD SAVE FROM LLORIS!! The France goalkeeper rushes from his line to meet Busquets and deflect his shot away.
There will be three minutes of added time here in Paris...
The visitors are keeping the ball well in the final moments of this game. Iniesta, of course, is at the heart of their good play. The Barca attacker has just drawn a foul on the left to win his side a free kick and with it a chance to waste some valuable seconds.
Spain look to threaten through Iniesta, but they are forced away from goal by Varane and Jallet, and Alonso eventually has to resort to crashing the ball into the stands to stop France from counter attacking.
Yellow Card Arbeloa
STUNNING STOP FROM VALDES!! Spain's goalkeeper does brilliantly to not only keep Evra's close-range header out, but also to flick it round the post. The left-back had connected well with Valbuena's set piece, but he was thwarted by a miraculous save from the Barcelona goalkeeper.
Arbeloa is shown a yellow card after pulling back Menez, and France have a free kick in an inviting position on the left...
RIBERY FIRES INCHES WIDE!! Recent substitute Moussa Sissoko hammers a pass out to the Bayern winger on the left and he cuts inside on to his right foot and smashes a firm effort at goal that flies just the wrong side of the post. That was so nearly an equaliser for France!
STAT: Benzema has now gone more than 1000 minutes of international football without a goal.
Benzema has gone off to a chorus of boos at Stade de France. Les Bleus' fans are not happy with his input tonight, particularly following his comments during the week about the national anthem.
CALM DEFENDING FROM KOSCIELNY!! France's centre-back dispossesses Navas neatly inside his own penalty area. But then nearly gives the ball away! The sublime and the sloppy there from the Arsenal defender.
France have a huge task now to get anything from this game. Nobody wants to play against Spain a man down.
Yellow Card Cesc Fàbregas
Yellow/Red Paul Pogba
POGBA IS OFF!! The young midfielder picks up two yellow cards in the space of a minute! The first is for a high challenge on Xabi Alonso, and the second is for catching Xavi with a late tackle. I'm not sure if that second foul was worthy of a yellow card!
Yellow Card Paul Pogba
Spain make their second change of the night, as Pedro - who has just picked up a knock - is replaced by Cesc Fabregas.
That was actually good defending from Monreal! The Arsenal full-back put alot of pressure on Varane as he went to shoot there.
VARANE GOES CLOSE!! The 19-year-old controls Valbuena's corner in the crowded penalty area but he cannot make good contact with the ball as it falls and he ends up slicing a shot wide of the right-hand post.
ANOTHER CORNER FOR FRANCE!! Valbuena feeds Ribery with a pass on the left and the Bayern winger drives into the box and wins a corner after the ball flicks off Pique's legs and goes behind.
France win a corner on the left through Valbuena. Their centre-backs wander forward for the set piece, but it turns out in vain as Valbuena's cross is flicked awkwardly over by Menez.
Again Navas beats Evra. France will have to be careful on their left side, Spain's sub is looking very dangerous.
Deschamps makes his first switch of the evening. Jeremy Menez is on for Cabaye.
Xavi's curling effort goes straight into the wall though. That was not a great attempt from the 33-year-old.
Yellow Card Blaise Matuidi
Matuidi follows Cabaye into the book. They will both miss France's next game against Georgia. At Stade de France however, Spain have a free kick 30 yards from goal...
Navas goes down under a challenge from Pogba and Spain have a free kick. Ribery is furious with that decision, he had picked up possession and looked to be clean through!
Evra is not going to enjoy the last 25 minutes here. Navas has blistering pace at his disposal and he has already beaten the France left-back three times since his introduction five minutes ago.
MATUIDI SHOOTS STRAIGHT AT VALDES!! The PSG midfielder has a fine opportunity to even the scores after a pass from Ribery finds him in space but his firm drive flies into the arms of a grateful Valdes.
PEDRO HAS ANOTHER CHANCE!! The goalscorer has been moved into the centre following that Spain change, and he nearly makes an immediate impact in his new position. Navas sprints down the right and cuts a pass back to him but he flicks the ball over Lloris' crossbar.
Jesús Navas González
That goal changes the complexion of Group I. If things stay the same Spain will move back into first position. I don't think France are going to sit back in the remaining half an hour though!
Spain are making a substitution having taken the lead. Villa is going off to be replaced by the Sevilla speedster Jesus Navas.
There was a great piece of skill in the build-up to that goal as Xavi hooked a fine pass over Jallet's head to Monreal, who then whipped the cross into the box for Pedro to force home.
GOALLLL!! PEDRO MAKES IT 1-0 TO SPAIN!! The Barcelona attacker scores his 10th international goal of the season after getting the vital touch to Monreal's cross from the left to push the ball past Lloris.
BENZEMA HEADS WIDE!! The Real Madrid striker nods an effort just off target after beating Busquets to Valbuena's free kick from the left-hand side.
That is absolutely fantastic midfield play from Pogba. The former Manchester United man shields the ball from Iniesta 25 yards from his own goal before shifting his feet to dance past a challenge from Xavi. Not bad against two of the best players in the world!
Yellow Card Yohan Cabaye
WHAT A SAVE FROM LLORIS!! Alonso slips a pass into the path of Iniesta and he does everything right by hitting the ball first time towards the top corner. But there is Lloris! Diving to his right to tip the ball over the bar and out for a corner.
Cabaye goes into Viktor Kassai's notebook after catching Busquets with a late tackle. The Newcastle midfielder will miss France's next qualifier against Georgia in September.
Xavi threads a pass towards Villa inside the France box but he is muscled off the ball by Koscielny. The former Valencia man looks up hopingly towards the referee but that is never ever ever going to be a penalty.
STAT: Spain are on a 19-match unbeaten run (W14, D5) stretching back to November 2011.
Ribery takes a corner short on the left and Valbuena curls a delicious cross to the back post that Valdes just about parries to safety. The ball is quickly worked back into the Spain box to Benzema though, but his shot goes some way off target.
REAL MADRID VS REAL MADRID!! Arbeloa and Benzema clash off the ball and the France striker looks fairly put out by that!
Monreal saunters down the left wing for Spain and hangs a cross towards Xavi inside the box. Koscielny is alert to the danger though, and beats the Barcelona man to the ball.
France steal the ball and work it out to Jallet on the right. The full-back keeps possession well under pressure from Monreal and Pique before flicking a pass towards Cabaye.
It's a slow start to the second period as Spain pass the ball between themselves inside their own half.
Spain get the second half underway at Stade de France...
How good are Varane and Pogba though?! Just 19 and 20 respectively and they look completely at home playing against the reigning world and European champions.
Xavi also missed a glorious chance for Spain early on, after great interplay between Iniesta and Monreal. The Barcelona midfielder snatched at a shot after the ball fell to him 10 yards out and his effort flew over the bar.
HALF-TIME: FRANCE 0-0 SPAIN The first half ends goalless at Stade de France, but it has been a very entertaining 45 minutes of football. Spain will feel they should have had a penalty after Lloris caught Pedro inside the box, while France will be ruing Ribery's miss/Valdes' save at the end of the half.
And there is the half-time whistle! It's 0-0 here in Paris.
Busquets nicks the ball from Valbuena cleanly on the near side but the Marseille attacker goes down in search of a free kick. He's not going to get one, that tackle was fine.
That Valbuena free kick aside, this has been a fantastic first half! Both teams are really going for it and committing players forward, which - as a neutral - is lovely to see.
That's an awful delivery from Valbuena though! It doesn't even beat the first man. What a waste!
Free kick to France! Ramos hurtles into Valbuena on the left, and the home side now have a chance to curl a cross into the Spain box.
Seven minutes to go until half-time. I want to hear your predictions and thoughts on the first half. Send them over to me on Twitter at @charliefscott.
MARVELLOUS FROM POGBA! The young Juventus midfielder switches the play brilliantly with a pass to Valbuena on the right wing. That was absolutely superb!
And now Viktor Kassai gets in the way of a pass from Iniesta! The man in the middle is doing little to endear himself to Del Bosque and his side at the moment!
THAT WOULD HAVE WIPED THE SMILES OFF THEIR FACES THOUGH! Evra's poor control allows Villa a chance on the right, but the Barcelona striker drags his shot and it drifts wide of Lloris' left-hand post.
The atmosphere has gone up a notch at Stade de France since that controversial decision from Viktor Kassai. Les Bleus' fans are in a jubilant mood.
Iniesta had been limping but it was his beautiful arching pass that played Pedro in for that chance. Maybe he's alright after all!
Yellow Card Xavi
SPAIN SHOULD HAVE A PENALTY!! Lloris clearly catches Pedro after the Spain forward had pushed the ball past the goalkeeper inside the France box. The referee again gave nothing though, and eventually booked Xavi for his protests!
The 28-year-old looks okay for the time being, although he is still moving quite gingerly. I'll certainly keep an eye on that one.
Iniesta is hobbling here. That could be a big blow to both Spain and Barcelona...
Valbuena and Ribery are causing Spain problems in this first half! The latter dinks a cross into the path of Pogba but he cannot control it well enough and it runs away from him. Valbuena picks up the loose ball and fires a cross back into the box and only some alert goalkeeping from Valdes stops Benzema from connecting with the pass.
Spain are appealing for a handball against Pogba just outside the France penalty area but Viktor Kassai is having none of it!
Matuidi goes crashing through the back of Busquets and Spain have a free kick. The PSG midfielder avoids a booking, which is fortunate as he is just one yellow card away from a suspension.
It's still 0-0 here but the opening 25 minutes have been very enjoyable on the eye. Both teams have played some lovely stuff so far!
Evra is flagged offside! That was a tight call! Ribery had slipped a delicate pass between Ramos and Arbeloa to his team-mate but the official on the near side pulled play back for offside.
Xavi and Villa move the ball nicely on the edge of the box before a cheeky backheel from Busquets finds Pedro in a pocket of space. The Barca forward lashes a shot at goal with his left foot but Hugo Lloris is able to kneel down and collect it.
Matuidi and Pogba are doing Cabaye's running in midfield by the looks of it! The Newcastle man is sitting back while France's two other central midfielders put pressure on Xavi and Xabi Alonso when they have the ball.
Varane is such a calm customer! The 19-year-old beats Villa in the air comfortably and cushions a header to Pogba. France quickly launch a counter attack down the left through Ribery and Valbuena but they are eventually crowded out by a sea of red shirts.
XAVI HITS A SHOT JUST WIDE!! The 33-year-old receives a pass from Iniesta 30 yards from goal and immediately pushes the ball into space and fires an effort at goal. The ball bounces a yard or so wide of the left-hand post!
STAT: France are on a 13-match unbeaten run in World Cup and European Championship qualifiers (W9, D4).
FRANCE GO CLOSE!! Valbuena swings a fine pass out to the overlapping Jallet on the right, and the Paris Saint-Germain full-back then cuts the ball back to Benzema, but he fires just over the bar with a right-foot effort from the edge of the box.
Blaise Matuidi is chasing every single pass in the centre circle for France at the moment, but Spain are retaining possession well.
RISKY FROM RIBERY!! The French winger plays a dodgy pass across his own box to Varane under pressure from Pedro. That could easily have gone straight to Villa, who was hanging on the shoulder of the Madrid centre-back. Ribery is lucky to get away with that!
Iniesta shows some delightful touches just inside the France half to get away from Cabaye and move the ball out to the right. Alvaro Arbeloa's cross into the box is wayward though, as Koscielny easily heads the ball clear.
France waste the corner though, as Cabaye's cross fails to find a team-mate and bounces out to safety on the far side.
GREAT TACKLE FROM PIQUE!! The Spain centre-back has to get that right! Valbuena, who can shift when he needs to, looks to be in on the right but the former Manchester United defender storms across to put in a thumping challenge and put the ball behind for a corner.
Everyone loves a stat don't they? Well, here's a beauty. STAT: Varane wasn't even born the last time Spain lost a World Cup qualifier, back in March 1993.
HOW HAS XAVI MISSED THAT?? Spain should be ahead!! Monreal cuts the ball back to Xavi on the penalty spot but the experienced Barcelona midfielder opens his body up too much and his side-footed effort flies over the bar. He should have scored there!
The visitors start to settle in midfield as Xavi and Xabi Alonso send a couple of probing passes towards David Villa. Neither find their man though, as Varane and Koscielny deal with the threat well.
Spain are looking quite dashing tonight. I'm not sure they have ever worn this all-red kit before. I am a big fan of it though.
France attack again on the left and Benzema wins a corner off the legs of Gerard Pique. An early Real Madrid-Barcelona confrontation there. I've got a feeling that might be a common theme tonight!
AMBITIOUS FROM VALBUENA!! Les Bleus fashion the first chance of the game as Benzema tees the ball up for Valbuena and he hits an acrobatic overhead kick high over Victor Valdes' crossbar.
The referee Viktor Kassai gets us underway here in Paris. Cabaye and Benzema take the kick-off for France and quickly sweep the ball back to Koscielny.
Three minutes til kick-off. I want to hear your predictions! Send them over to me on Twitter @charliefscott.
THE ANSWER IS NO! The France striker sticks to his guns and remains tight-lipped as the camera pans past him.
I am on Benzema-watch for the next few minutes. Will he sing the national anthem after his comments during the week? We will see...
SPAIN TEAM NEWS: The visitors again have a very Catalan feel to their side, as seven players from Barcelona start the game. Pedro returns in an attacking three alongside his club team-mates David Villa and Andres Iniesta. Arsenal's Nacho Monreal is named at left-back for la Roja, after Jordi Alba picked up a thigh injury in their 1-1 draw with Finland on Friday.
FRANCE TEAM NEWS: Olivier Giroud is replaced by Yohan Cabaye, as Didier Deschamps reverts to a 4-3-3 formation after trialling a 4-4-2 with Giroud and Karim Benzema upfront against Georgia on Friday. Elsewhere, Laurent Koscielny comes in at centre-back for Mamadou Sakho, as Real Madrid's Raphael Varane retains his place, while Gael Clichy makes way for Patrice Evra at left-back.
Spain (4-3-3): Valdes; Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Monreal; Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi; Pedro, Villa, Iniesta
France (4-3-3): Lloris; Jallet, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Cabaye, Pogba, Matuidi; Valbuena, Benzema, Ribery
How about some team news then?
Spain's surprise draw adds a whole new dimension to an already crucial game. If France win, they will be five points clear of their opponents tonight, with just three games to play after this evening. However, should Spain secure all three points they would leapfrog Didier Deschamps' side and move back into first place.
Les Bleus took a two-point lead over Spain on Friday, as they sealed a routine 3-1 win over Georgia, while Vicente del Bosque's side dropped points in a 1-1 draw against Finland after conceding late on in Gijon.
My name is Charlie Scott and I will be here for the duration of the game providing you with updates as the fun unfolds in Paris. As always, you can get in touch with me via the comments box to the right of this commentary, or by hurling your tweets over to @charliefscott.
Good evening one and all, and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of a pivotal World Cup qualifier at Stade de France between France (surprisingly) and the reigning world champions Spain.
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