Spain are back in control of Group I after a narrow win in Paris.
A surprise 1-1 draw against Finland in Gijon on Friday night suddenly put France in pole position for a place in Rio, after they recorded a 3-1 home win against Georgia. Beating the Spanish at the Parc des Princes would have given them a five point margin over the World and European champions, with just three qualification matches remaining.
However, it wasn’t to be for Les Bleus, who went behind shortly before the hour mark when Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal crossed for Pedro, the Barcelona forward, to fire past Hugo Lloris. It got worse for the home side later on, when young midfielder Paul Pogba was dismissed with 12 minutes remaining after collecting two yellow cards in the space of four minutes.
“It’s a bit hard to swallow,” France coach Didier Deschamps told FT1. “We did more than they did. We had opportunities against the best team of the moment. It could have been different even if they were more in control than us. By the end they were not at ease even if we had one less player.”
Remarkably, Spain have now gone 50 World Cup qualifying matches without tasting defeat, a run which stretches back to March 1993. They travel to Finland in September for their next test, before ending the group with home matches against Belarus and Georgia. So you can understand if France think they may have blown their big opportunity.