Published March 26, 2013
| Sports Network
Saint Denis, France – Spain moved to the top of Group I of UEFA World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, earning a 1-0 win over 10-man France at the Stade de France.
Pedro produced the telling goal in the 58th minute while Paul Pogba's two yellow cards in the span of a minute inside the final quarter-hour left Les Blues with no way back.
France's first loss of the group stage leaves the nation on 10 points through five matches, one point back of first-place Spain.
La Roja dictated play throughout the opening period but failed to turn its possession into a first-half lead.
But the break through came 13 minutes after the restart when Nacho Monreal's low cross to the back post was met by Pedro. Hugo Lloris got a piece of the shot and even had a second stab at it, but the French 'keeper ultimately failed to prevent the ball from trickling over the goal line.
The proceedings were made even more difficult for France in the 78th minute when Pogba, in just his second cap for the national team, was issued a second yellow card. The Juventus midfielder was a split-second late to a loose ball and caught Xavi's ankle with the underside of his boot.
France managed to come within inches of grabbing an equalizer three minutes from time when Mathieu Valbuena delivered an inch-perfect free kick for Patrice Evra to nod a shot on target with a diving header, but Victor Valdes was equal to the task, parrying the effort aside to preserve Spain's victory with a strong left-handed save.
In Group H action on Tuesday, England threw away the opportunity to move to the top of the group by conceding late in a 1-1 draw with Montenegro. It looked as if England would cruise to victory when Wayne Rooney scored in the sixth minute, but a poor second half gave way to Dejan Damjanovic's 76th- minute equalizer, keeping the Three Lions two points back of Montenegro.
Also in Group H, Poland routed San Marino in a 5-0 victory to move up to eight points while Ukraine kept pace with a 2-1 win over Moldova.
In Group F, Portugal received second-half goals from Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida to claim a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday, but it remains level on points with Israel after its 2-0 defeat of Northern Ireland.
The Netherlands kept its unblemished record in Group D in tact on Tuesday, thumping Romania 4-0 behind a brace from Robin van Persie. Seven points back of the Dutch is Hungary, which stormed back for a 1-1 draw with Turkey. Rounding out Group D action, Estonia picked up a 2-0 win over Andorra.
Germany extended its lead atop Group C with a 4-1 victory over Kazakhstan on Tuesday. The Germans improve to 16 points through six matches to move eight points ahead of Austria, which needed a late goal from David Alaba to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland.
Italy moved to the summit of Group B as a brace from Mario Balotelli powered the Italians to a 2-0 defeat of Malta. Italy displaced Bulgaria at the top of the table following its 1-1 draw with Denmark while the Czech Republic rounded out Group C action with a comfortable 3-0 win over Armenia.
And in Group A play, Belgium and Croatia remained tied at the top of the table by earning wins over Macedonia and Wales, respectively. Eden Hazard grabbed the lone goal in Belgium's 1-0 defeat of Macedonia while Croatia received two goals in the final 13 minutes for its 2-1 victory over Wales. Serbia also picked up a win on Tuesday, defeating Scotland by a 2-0 score.