Finland-Spain Preview: Benched Casillas still Spain No.1

Spain moved one point ahead of second-placed France in Group I with a 1-0 away victory over Laurent Blanc’s men in March, but must now take on a team against whom they dropped points earlier that month.

The Finns earned a respectable draw in Madrid as Teemu Pukki’s goal cancelled out a Sergio Ramos effort, and they will hope to go one better when the teams meet again in Helsinki.

But Ramos is keen to avoid a similarly disappointing result this time around.

“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,” the Real Madrid defender said.

“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. But I think the positive thing is that we always learn from our mistakes.

“When you spend years winning matches and important titles it becomes clear that teams respect you. There’s nothing we can do about that. 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.”

Spain won all 10 of their qualification matches for the last World Cup, and did the same over eight fixtures to reach Euro 2012 – with both tournaments ending in victories.

And, although the possibility of pulling off a similar feat ahead of the 2014 event in Brazil is already gone, they will at least hope to preserve their undefeated status against Finland.

Vicente del Bosque’s team go into the game having lost just once to Finland in seven previous meetings, with that defeat coming in the first-ever clash between the sides in a World Cup qualifier in 1969.

The last two games have ended in draws, while Spain and Finland have seen two and three of their respective Group I games finish all square.

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