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Spain under pressure after 1-1 draw with Finland in World Cup qualifying

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Gijon, Spain, Mar 22 (EFE).- Spain's national soccer squad finds itself in second place in its UEFA World Cup qualifying group after a disappointing 1-1 draw here Friday with Finland, which stunned the defending world champs with a counterattack goal in the 79th minute.

The Spaniards, as expected, completely dominated ball possession throughout the contest at El Molinon stadium, but they struggled to penetrate the Finns' well-organized defense.

After a scoreless first half, Spanish defenseman Sergio Ramos opened the scoring in the 49th minute with a header that beat Finnish goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa.

That strike figured to either open the floodgates or, at the minimum, secure the victory over an overmatched Finnish team that hadn't managed a shot on goal to that point in the match.

But Finland remained disciplined and looked for a counterattack opportunity, which came in the 79th minute when Teemu Pukki received a cross and fired past Spanish net minder Victor Valdes.

Gerard Pique and Ramos then had chances to get the winning goal late for Spain, but they were unable to capitalize.

The Spanish team's second draw in Group I leaves it with eight points, two behind France, its next opponent in the European Zone World Cup qualifying.

Failure to get a win in Paris on Tuesday could mean Spain will not directly qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and will have to face another group phase runner-up in a two-legged playoff.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130322/spain-under-pressure-after-1-1-draw-finland-world-cup-qualifying