Soccer: Write us off at your peril, warns Spain's Cazorla

MADRID Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:59am EDT

Spain national soccer team players (top row, L-R) Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Victor Valdes, (bottom row, L-R) David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Santi Cazorla and Jordi Alba pose before their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Finland in Molinero stadium, in Gijon March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Vincent West

Spain national soccer team players (top row, L-R) Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Victor Valdes, (bottom row, L-R) David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Santi Cazorla and Jordi Alba pose before their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Finland in Molinero stadium, in Gijon March 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent West

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MADRID (Reuters) - It is too early to start talking about the end of an era with Spain, midfielder Santi Cazorla said on Sunday ahead of the champions' trip to play Group I leaders France in a World Cup qualifier.

Consecutive home draws against Tuesday's hosts and surprisingly against basement team Finland last Friday have left Spain second in the standings, two points behind Didier Deschamps side with four games to play.

Anything less than a victory in Paris would leave Spain contemplating the play-offs for a backdoor route to the finals in Brazil.

After exhilarating victories at Euro 2008, at the World Cup in 2010 and again at Euro 2012, questions have been asked if their cycle of success is coming to an end.

"It makes no sense to doubt this team," Arsenal's Cazorla told a news conference at their training base just outside the Spanish capital on Sunday.

"Today in football any team can make life difficult for you. We still have the same hunger and, of course, you cannot talk about the end of an era."

Spain have lacked a cutting edge and struggled to turn their dominance into goals in their last two outings, as their possession game has looked slow and predictable at times.

On top of that, they have conceded late equalizers after some uncharacteristically sloppy defending.

"In the last game we lacked some things," Cazorla added. "We need more variations, the team need to convert possession into chances.

"France will be different. I don't know if they are going to 'park a bus in front of the goal' (as Finland did).

"Recently they have proven they have the tools to be able to play in a different way."

France striker Karim Benzema, who plays in La Liga with Real Madrid, was booed by home fans at the Stade de France in their last game, a 3-1 win over Georgia, as he failed to find the net for an 11th consecutive game.

Asked what he thought of Benzema's barren spell, Cazorla replied: "He is a spectacular footballer. He has great ability and it is rare for him to go so long without scoring.

"I hope he doesn't have his day against us either."

(Reporting by Mark Elkington, editing by Justin Palmer)

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