Spain travel to Helsinki to take on Finland in a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup on Friday night. La Roja are currently top of group I, one point ahead of France. With Spain and France virtually guaranteed to gain the top two spots, both teams will be eager to finish first to avoid a play-off to get into competition in Brazil.
Spain are the heavy pre-game favourites but will be weary of a Finland side who were able to get a result in their previous meeting.
Finland have an outside chance of qualification being four points behind France. Any hopes of making the competition hinge on the game against Spain. Considering France are expected to defeat Georgia, a loss would make the gap close to unbridgeable for Finland.
Finland were able to secure a 1-1 draw in Spain. Their tactics during the game centered on dropping deep and trying to frustrate their opponents, which seemed to work. Much of the game was played around the Finland penalty box, with Spain having the majority of possession. Considering its success in the first match, we can expect Finland to play in a similar style. The key question is whether Spain can manage to break them down and score the elusive winning goal.
The result could prove crucial as it robs Spain of the advantage gained in the victory against France in March. Spain defender Sergio Ramos is keen to avoid the mistakes made in the first match against today's opponents.
"Its clear that Finland are a team that surprised us because they closed up shop against us from the first minute, and although they didn't create too many chances managed to score against us," Ramos told ESPN.
"That is a lesson we learned about keeping our concentration for the full 90 minutes because they were able to level the score with us on the break which made things difficult for us," he continued. "Every team has its own philosophy or style of play, so we will try to open them up as much as possible to cause them problems and hopefully win the match."
The talk before the game has centered on who Vincente del Bosque chooses as goalkeeper. Iker Casillas, Spain's captain, has found himself on the bench for his club Real Madrid. With the player adored by the Spanish public, there is pressure on Del Bosque to play him.
Del Bosque also has injury concerns; Javi Marinez, Xabi Alonso, Serio Busquets and Fernando Torres will be missing as will Gerard Pique (suspension). Cesc Fabregas is expected to play in midfield while Alvaro Negredo or Roberto Soldado will play up front.
Finland will be without Perparim Hetemaj due to suspension. Kasper Hamalainen and Teemu Pukki are the Finland's main goal scorring threat.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is at 12 am IST (Saturday, 7 September) and live coverage is available.
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