Soccer: Spain on the brink but still searching for punch

Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:07pm EDT
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain coach Vicente del Boaque is eager to see more clinical finishing and some goals from world champions Spain who need only a point against Georgia on Tuesday to clinch a place in next year's World Cup finals.

The world and European champions have had little trouble dominating their Group I rivals in terms of possession but Del Bosque has complained they have not been aggressive, or decisive, enough in attack, as demonstrated in Friday's labored 2-1 home win over Belarus.

Victory in Palma de Mallorca put Spain three points clear of France with one match to play and, unless there is a major upset in Albacete, the French will need to come through a playoff to seal their berth at the finals in Brazil.

France play Finland in Paris on Tuesday.

Responding to the Belarussians' ultra-defensive tactics, Del Bosque switched to a three-man defense at halftime on Friday, replacing left back Nacho Monreal with Andres Iniesta.

The change gave Spain more width, with Iniesta roving down the left and his Barcelona team mate Pedro on the right and it was Pedro's clever flick that set Sergio Ramos free to cross for Alvaro Negredo to score Spain's second.

A defensive howler allowed Belarus to pull a goal back in the 89th minute. Del Bosque criticized the team after the game for a lack of ambition.

Tuesday's match is likely to follow a similar pattern with already eliminated Georgia playing only for pride. A point would be a major coup for the tiny Caucasus nation.   Continued...

Spain's players (L-R) Alvaro Arbeloa, Jorge Resurreci?n "Koke", Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez and Xavi applaud to supportes after their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Belarus at Son Moix stadium in Palma de Mallorca October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Enrique Calvo