France finish on a high as play-offs await
France's midfielder Franck Ribery (L) heads the ball next to Finland's defender Kari Arkivuo during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying group I football match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on October 15, 2013
The result made no difference to them, though, as Spain's victory over Georgia ensured Didier Deschamps's team finished second in the group and will now face a two-legged November play-off for the right to head to Brazil next year.
France came into the game knowing they would need a mini-miracle elsewhere in order to qualify directly for the World Cup but buoyed by their 6-0 friendly thrashing of Australia at the Parc des Princes on Friday.
While it would be too much to hope for a Georgia win in Spain, Les Bleus could at least expect to end their campaign with a win.
And things started brightly as Ribery crashed home a spectacular shot from outside the box, using his strength to hold off Kari Arkivuo, then quick feet to shift into a bit of space before firing in off the underside of the bar on eight minutes.
France showed the same flowing, attacking play that had brushed the Socceroos aside and another fine move saw Samir Nasri slip in Olivier Giroud down the left to chip the ball into the box where Mathieu Valbuena's header from 12 yards was kept out by goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa.
One felt, though, that had the diminutive Valbuena and the giant Giroud's roles been reversed, the net might have bulged again.
Strangely, though, the hosts lost their way. Kasper Hamalainen was sent away by a clever ball between Patrice Evra and Eric Abidal but Hugo Lloris came out to save his low shot and spare French blushes.
And yet moments later, Hamalainen again got free down the right before pulling the ball back for Roman Eremenko, who dithered and allowed Blaise Matuidi to block his shot.
Yet still Finland pressed as from a corner, Alexander Ring sent a 25-yard volley sizzling just over the bar.
The home fans were starting to get frustrated as a burst of Ribery acceleration got him to byline but his pull-back for Valbuena was wasted as the Marseille playmaker took an age to get his shot away and fired over, provoking jeers from the Parisian crowd.
Yet that was soon forgotten as Ribery darted down the left again and squeezed a cross between two defenders, only for Giroud's close range effort to be saved by Maenpaa's legs.
France were almost caught napping at the start of the second half by a quickly-taken free-kick that ended with Teemu Pukki dragging his shot wide.
Normal service resumed as Mathieu Debuchy stung Maenpaa's fingers while Markus Halsti made a desperate last-ditched lunge to deny Ribery.
France finally killed off the game 14 minutes from time as following a patient build-up, Debuchy crossed from the right and Giroud's downward header looked to be heading wide before substitute Toivio, charging back, managed to somehow slam the ball home from a yard out.
Benzema's recent 1,222 minute goalless run in the French team was well and truly behind the Real Madrid striker as the substitute volleyed home a Ribery cross form close range three minutes from time.