Spain on the brink but still searching for punch
Madrid: Spain coach Vicente del Boaque is eager to see more clinical finishing and some goals from world champions Spain who need only a point against Georgia on Tuesday to clinch a place in next year`s World Cup finals.
The world and European champions have had little trouble dominating their Group I rivals in terms of possession but Del Bosque has complained they have not been aggressive, or decisive, enough in attack, as demonstrated in Friday`s laboured 2-1 home win over Belarus.
Victory in Palma de Mallorca put Spain three points clear of France with one match to play and, unless there is a major upset in Albacete, the French will need to come through a playoff to seal their berth at the finals in Brazil.
France play Finland in Paris on Tuesday.
Responding to the Belarussians` ultra-defensive tactics, Del Bosque switched to a three-man defence at halftime on Friday, replacing left back Nacho Monreal with Andres Iniesta.
The change gave Spain more width, with Iniesta roving down the left and his Barcelona team mate Pedro on the right and it was Pedro`s clever flick that set Sergio Ramos free to cross for Alvaro Negredo to score Spain`s second.
A defensive howler allowed Belarus to pull a goal back in the 89th minute. Del Bosque criticised the team after the game for a lack of ambition.
Tuesday`s match is likely to follow a similar pattern with already eliminated Georgia playing only for pride. A point would be a major coup for the tiny Caucasus nation.
"It`s going to be tough," Negredo told a news conference on Sunday.
"They will close ranks at the back, but the truth is that even when matches are not going according to plan they rarely get away from us."
Monreal, who started against Belarus in the absence of injured Jordi Alba, said Spain had to remain faithful to the patient, possession-based playing style that has served them so well in recent years.
"On top of that there will be some variations in attack, but the idea is to maintain our philosophy," Monreal told reporters.
There is fierce competition for the striker`s role, but Negredo`s fine diving header against Belarus will have helped his chances of making the position his own ahead of Michu, Roberto Soldado, David Villa and Fernando Torres.
Atletico Madrid`s Brazil-born forward Diego Costa is another possible option. Del Bosque has said he plans to call him into the squad once the necessary paperwork is completed.
"It`s really tough in the national team," Negredo said. "There are some very good players and that`s why we give our all when we go out on the pitch."
Georgia coach Temur Ketsbaia hailed Spain, who scraped a 1-0 win in Tbilisi, in September, 2012, thanks to Soldado`s 86th-minute strike, as `the best national side in history`.
"I have no words to describe what I would feel if we were to beat the world champions at home," the former Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers player told Spanish media.
"I wouldn`t be able to pick out just one (Spanish player), because they all have so much quality that even the ones who haven`t been called up are good."
Georgia would go for a win "even if a draw would be a good result for the team", he said.
Defeating Spain will be a tall order, however, as the World Cup holders are on a 29-match unbeaten run at home stretching back to a 1-0 reverse to Romania in November 2006.