MADRID, July 31, 2011 (AFP) - Spain coach Vicente del Bosque admitted that France will be a "terrible rival" in World Cup 2014 qualifying, but warned his squad on Sunday not to just focus on the former world champions.
Defending champions Spain were drawn against 1998 winners France in World Cup 2014 qualifying on Saturday in the biggest match-up of the tournament.
|AFP - FIFA´s president Joseph Blatter delivers a welcome speech during the Preliminary Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, on July 30, 2011|
Belarus, Georgia and Finland made up the five-team Group I from where just the pool winners are assured of qualification for the finals.
"On paper (France) is our biggest rival, but many things can happen. Don't forget that an error or a slipup against Finland, Belarus and Georgia can complicate your life and the classification," del Bosque told the Spanish sports daily AS.
"But the reality is that there will be two world champions in the group, France and Spain. France is a sleeping giant, but after South Africa it has initiated a process of renewal and regeneration and will be a terrible rival."
"We will have to start defending the title of world champions from qualifying stage."
But he declined to "complain about the group or the circumstances."
"That's not good for sportsmen, for champions. What you need to do is to respect every opponent and do our best to be first in the group. That's what we'll try to do."
The head of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, has admitted its "an extremely difficult group."
"We have time to progress but it's absolutely essential to finish first. We will face Spain and be very competitive. We still have a year and a half to get ready."
The qualifying round takes place from September 7, 2012 until October 15, 2013.
France were unseeded for the draw after slipping down the rankings recently.