Spain held to 1-1 draw by Finland in WC qualifier

Spain conceded a late goal Friday to draw 1-1 at home with

Finland, conceding top spot to France in their World Cup qualifying

group and jeopardizing its chance of automatically advancing to the

2014 tournament in Brazil.

Sergio Ramos marked his 100th appearance for Spain by scoring

from a header in the 49th minute after Finland had bunkered down in

its area throughout the first half.

But Spain paid for not converting its overwhelming possession

into a second goal when Teemu Pukki volleyed into the net from a

cross after a 79th-minute counterattack in what was Finland’s first

shot on goal.

Spain’s second straight draw left it with eight points in Group

I, while Finland has two. France took sole possession of first

place on 10 points by beating Georgia 3-1 also on Friday. The group

winner automatically qualifies for World Cup, while the runner-up

is likely to face a playoff.

Spain visits France on Tuesday in a match that could go a long

way toward determining the group winner.

”We are disappointed,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque,

who had little to celebrate on his record-setting 69th game with

the national team. ”It seems impossible that after dominating the

game we lost our concentration. We have four games ahead of us and

we have to keep fighting. There are still a lot of points in

play.”

Del Bosque broke Ladislao Kubala’s record of most games at the

head of the Spanish national team. The former Real Madrid coach has

a record of 57 wins, six draws and six losses with Spain.

Almost the entire match at El Molinon Stadium was played on the

edge of or inside Finland’s area, as Spain probed the visitors’

tightly packed defense of five midfielders in front of a four-man

defense.

With seven Barcelona players in the starting 11, Spain dominated

possession from the start against the Scandinavians.

Finland’s defensive stance worked throughout the first 48

minutes, with Spain limited to long strikes by Santi Cazorla and

Andres Iniesta that goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa did well to save.

Ramos put Spain in front when he held off his marker and turned

David Silva’s corner – Spain’s 10th to none for Iceland at that

stage – back inside the near post with a bouncing header.

Down a goal, Finland finally showed some attacking intent, and

Pukki surged forward to reach a cross and toe it beyond goalkeeper

Victor Valdes, starting in place of the injured Iker Casillas.

Spain pressed for a late winner with substitute Alvaro Negredo

going the closest.

”It’s too bad that we let a game that we had controlled get

away in the final minutes,” Ramos said. ”Perhaps we lacked the

precision needed to score the second goal and finish it off.

”We have to think about France now. We know that we will face a

great team, but we also know that we can get the win there.”