World Cup

France books World Cup playoff spot

Franck Ribery
Franck Ribery and France will control their World Cup destiny in a playoff.
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France will have to negotiate the playoffs if they are to reach the 2014 World Cup finals despite finishing their qualification campaign with a 3-0 win over Finland

Franck Ribery opened the scoring in the eighth minute before a Joona Toivio own goal and Karim Benzema's late strike earned Les Bleus victory, the second consecutive match in which the Real Madrid striker has scored after a nightmare spell in front of goal.

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However, Spain's win over Georgia guaranteed progression from Group I for the defending World Cup holders and forced France into the play-off lottery.

France started the final round of qualifiers three points behind Spain and needing both results to go their way as well as a swing in goal difference if they were to claim the automatic spot.

The hosts signalled their attacking intentions from the outset, Laurent Koscielny and Paul Pogba both having efforts before France went ahead in the eighth minute with a stunning strike from Ribery.

The Bayern Munich winger unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal from 25 yards giving Finland goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa no chance at all.

Perparim Hetemaj shot wide for the visitors but Olivier Giroud headed over and Mathieu Debuchy fired wide while Maenpaa did well to parry Mathieu Valbuena's header as France attacked.

However, Finland weathered the storm and almost equalised when Kasper Hamalainen's shot from the centre of the area was only saved by the feet of France keeper Hugo Lloris.

The visitors then forced a corner which was taken by Roman Eremenko and although Debuchy cleared, Alexander Ring pounced to fire a superb right-footed volley narrowly over the bar from 20 yards.

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Valbuena curled a shot over the bar and shortly after was denied by Maenpaa after he had been found by Ribery.

France came within inches of doubling their lead in first-half injury time when Samir Nasri's 25-yard effort hit the post which proved to be the last meaningful action before the interval.

Debuchy's volley was parried by Maenpaa minutes after the re-start before the Newcastle defender's long-range effort was comfortably gathered by the goalkeeper.

Roman Eremenko's shot was easily saved by Lloris with both teams firing in from distance.

The game had fallen a little flat and with Spain getting a second goal over Georgia, there was little France could realistically do to affect their situation.

Giroud fired over from distance before Valbuena's corner found Koscielny at the far post only for the Arsenal defender to head over the bar.

However, France did get a deserved second goal 13 minutes from full-time when Giroud's header was turned into his own goal by Toivio, the defender sending the ball high into the centre of the goal.

Loic Remy then hit the post moments later with a header from 12 yards before Debuchy fired over from 30 yards.

Ribery, Yohan Cabaye and Debuchy all had shots before Benzema completed the scoring three minutes from time when he volleyed home Ribery's cross.

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