France will have to negotiate the play-offs to reach the 2014 World Cup finals, despite finishing their qualification campaign with a 3-0 win over Finland.
Franck Ribery opened the scoring in the eighth minute before a Joona Toivio own goal and Karim Benzema’s late strike earned Les Bleus victory. It was the second consecutive match in which Real Madrid striker Benzema has scored after a nightmare spell in front of goal.
However, Spain’s win over Georgia guaranteed progression from Group I for the World Cup holders and forced France into the play-offs.
The French started the final round of qualifiers three points behind Spain and needing both results to go their way as well as a swing in goal difference if they were to claim the automatic spot.
The hosts signalled their attacking intent from the outset, Laurent Koscielny and Paul Pogba both having efforts before they went ahead in the eighth minute thanks to a stunning strike from Ribery.
The Bayern Munich winger unleashed an unstoppable effort into the top right-hand corner from 25 yards, giving Finland goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa no chance.
Perparim Hetemaj shot wide for the visitors but Olivier Giroud headed over and Mathieu Debuchy fired wide while Maenpaa did well to parry Mathieu Valbuena’s header as France attacked.
However, Finland weathered the storm and almost equalised when Kasper Hamalainen’s shot from the centre of the area was saved by the feet of France keeper Hugo Lloris.
The visitors then forced a corner which was taken by Roman Eremenko and, although Debuchy cleared, Alexander Ring pounced to fire a superb right-footed volley narrowly over the bar from 20 yards.
Valbuena curled a shot over the bar and shortly afterwards was denied by Maenpaa after he had been found by Ribery.
France came within inches of doubling their lead in first-half injury time when Samir Nasri’s 25-yard effort hit the post.
Debuchy’s volley was parried by Maenpaa minutes after the restart before the Newcastle defender’s long-range effort was comfortably gathered by the goalkeeper.
Roman Eremenko’s shot was easily saved by Lloris, with both teams firing attempts in from distance. The game had fallen a little flat and, with Spain getting a second goal over Georgia, there was nothing France could do to affect their situation.
Giroud fired over from distance before Valbuena’s corner found Koscielny at the far post only for the Arsenal defender to head over. However, France got a deserved second goal 13 minutes from time when Giroud’s header was turned into his own goal by defender Toivio.
Loic Remy hit the post moments later with a header from 12 yards before Debuchy fired over from 30 yards. Ribery, Yohan Cabaye and Debuchy all had shots before Benzema completed the scoring three minutes from time when he volleyed home Ribery’s cross.