Created on 15-10-2012 at 00:00 AM
The war of words in the build-up to Spain v France, or Javi Martinez v Franck Ribéry, started a long time ago - in the Bayern dressing room at least. “They’re going to make us sweat, Franck keeps telling me," the Spaniard revealed ahead of Tuesday's big World Cup qualifying clash in Madrid. However, Ribéry knows full well that the visitors face a daunting task: “We'll have to give it absolutely everything for 90 minutes and run like madmen," the winger admitted.
Spain and France have both made perfect starts to the qualifying contest with two wins from two matches. In all likelihood, the pair will fight it out among themselves for top spot in a Group I also containing Georgia, Finland and Belarus. Only the winners of the section are guaranteed a place in Brazil, so the head-to-head meeting is crucial.
Six years since last qualifying defeat
“France are always difficult opponents," warned Martinez, but there is no escaping Spain's role as favourites. The reigning world and European champions have won an astonishing 24 qualifying fixtures in a row, last dropping points in a 1-1 draw with Iceland in September 2007, and last actually losing - a 2-0 reverse against Sweden - as long ago as October 2006. “There's no getting away from it," commented Ribéry, “I think the Spanish are stronger than everyone else at the moment."