Although unsure of how he converted his 12th goal for Spain in last night's 1-0 win against ten-man France in Paris, attacker Pedro Rodríguez was nonetheless delighted at having helped his country extend their unbeaten run in FIFA World Cup qualifiers to 50 matches.
On his 26th appearance for La Roja, the FC Barcelona forward netted the only goal of the game in the 58th minute to erase the frustration of Friday's 1-1 home draw with Finland and send Vicente del Bosque's side a point clear of France at the top of Group I. "Winning here was crucial and we knew we couldn't afford to fail," the 25-year-old said afterwards. "It was a very important victory and I'm really happy with how things turned out."
Despite the best efforts of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris – who got a hand to Pedro's goalbound effort – Didier Deschamps' men fell behind 13 minutes into the second half and later saw midfielder Paul Pogba sent off as they succumbed to their first reverse in the section. "After sprinting forward I managed to reach the ball and get a touch on it," Pedro said of his crucial strike. "I eventually saw that it went in, but to be honest I'm not quite sure how."
The Canary Islander was just five years old when Spain last lost a World Cup qualifier – a 1-0 defeat by Denmark in Copenhagen on 31 March 1993. Flemming Poulsen scored for the hosts that day and few at the Parken stadium could have predicted that the then European champions' opponents would embark on a run of 50 unbeaten qualifying games in the tournament.
For the coach of the current world and European title holders, Del Bosque, this latest success served to boost morale after the questions raised by the Finland draw in Gijon. "You know, sometimes doubts are cast but tonight we reaffirmed our belief and conviction," he said. "Our players showed themselves to be really mature, they were men out there."
Admitting that Spain had suffered a "few close shaves" in the French capital, the 62-year-old said "the prospect of being five points behind France hung heavily over us", so victory was a welcome relief. "We are continuing along our path [towards qualification] and although we would like to seal our passage to the finals as soon as possible, we haven't done so yet," he concluded.
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