Spain's chances of defending their world title in Brazil next year received a blow when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Finland in Gijon.
Teemu Pukki’s equaliser with 11 minutes to go after a rare Finnish counter-attack meant that Vicente del Bosque’s side are now two points behind France in Group I and might suffer the indignity of a play-off. Sergio Ramos, winning his 100th cap, had given a stuttering Spain side the lead just after half-time with a header from a corner.
France capitalised on the world champions’ slip-up by beating Georgia 3-1 at home, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud getting their first goal, Mathieu Valbuena and Franck Ribéry making the game safe. Didier Deschamps’s side entertain Spain in Paris on Tuesday.
The Republic of Ireland maintained their fine away record under Giovanni Trapattoni to earn a useful 0-0 draw in Sweden. The Irish tired after a superb opening 20 minutes but held firm in a tight Group C game at Stockholm’s enclosed Friends Arena, David Forde making several good saves, to claim a valuable point.
Fabio Coentrao’s last-minute goal earned Portugal a vital point in Tel Aviv as Paulo Bento’s side fought back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 with Israel. Both teams are rivals for second place in Group F behind runaway leaders Russia and Coentrao’s close-range finish could be very significant as to who gets the play-off place.
Germany took a leaf out of Spain’s book by fielding no recognised strikers as they beat Kazakhstan 3-0 in Astana. Tottenham’s Gylfi Sigurdsson scored both goals as Iceland won 2-1 in Slovenia. Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko also got two in Group G leaders Bosnia’s 3-1 home win over Greece, while Chelsea’s Eden Hazard scored from the penalty spot for Belgium in the 2-0 win in Macedonia.