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France and Spain will play the third quarter final of Euro 2012 tonight at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. It is expected to be a high flying match-up involving two teams who are extremely creative in their attack. However, on the other side, French defence lagged in their final group game against Sweden losing 2-0 and finishing second in the group in the process, behind England. Spain do not have any defensive problems to bother with as they’re the team with least goals conceded in the tournament (one). Having said that, it’s not all hunky dory when it comes to Spain’s attack.
France have the upper hand as far as previous records are concerned. Spain have never beaten France in a competitive fixture; losing at 1984 European Championship, Euro 1992 and 2000 and drawing at Euro 1996. They’ve also faced each other on the grandest stage – the World Cup, with France coming out on top with a 3-1 victory at 2006 World Cup.
These two met at the same stage at Euro 2000 in Bruges where France won 2-1 with goals from Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff after Gaezka Mendieta had equalled matters. Laurent Blanc was part of that French side and only Iker Casillas is surviving member from that matchup on 25 June, 2000.
Possibly the bigger blow for the Spanish side came during the 1984 European Championship when they lost 2-0 in the finals in Paris with Michel Platini, current UEFA boss as one of the goalscorers.
EURO 2012 SO FAR:
It will be an interesting match with the players involved. Karim Benzema would be going up against his Real Madrid team mates Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas; Fernando Torres and Juan Mata against Chelsea compatriot Flourent Malouda; Manchester City’s David Silva against Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri; Adil Rami up against Jordi Alba (both play for Valencia).
Spain won two of their matches in Group C and finished top of the group. La Roja started off with a 1-1 draw to 2006 World Cup winners Italy, 4-0 resounding victory over Republic of Ireland and a late Jesus Navas goal helped overcome Croatia late on with a 1-0 win.
France saw their 23 game unbeaten streak end with the 2-0 loss to Sweden. Les Blues started their campaign with a 1-1 draw, like Spain, against England, 2-0 victory over Ukraine and then the loss to Sweden. It won’t be wrong to say France didn’t make it easy to the next stages. Ukraine could have taken their place if their goal against England had counted and they were able to make most of that golden opportunity. Alas, that wasn’t to be.
Spain have no injury concerns or worries going into the game. Xabi Alonso would be playing his 100th game for Spain and would be trying to not get booked as he, along with Alvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Javi Martinez are one booking away from suspension.
France will be without Philippe Mexes who is out suspended. There are injury concerns over Samir Nasri and Frank Ribery who sat out Wednesday’s training due to “minor problems”. Yohan Cabaye missed the game against Sweden due to a thigh problem. Jeremy Menez and Mathieu Debuchy are a booking away from suspension.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAID:
Vicente Del Bosque:
We have to show our emotion and enthusiasm. We want to compete; we’re very competitive. Emotions are never predictable. The developments in each match can strengthen or weaken a team. I hope our play will strengthen our consistency. “I just want to look forward to the future. We gave all our energy in the Croatia match. People said I should have substituted someone else, but I’m not angry with anyone; everyone has the right to an opinion and it’s good to have a debate. We’re just doing our best for Spain. There’s no point analysing me personally. Everyone thinks we’re favourites because we won the EURO four years ago and the World Cup two years ago, but there is evidence that France are better in competitive matches. We’ll have to see tomorrow if we can change history.
I usually say we have to adapt as little as possible to our opponents and play to our own strengths, but we’re coming up against Spain, who have a very specific playing style. You are forced to adapt but the problem is that Spain have the ball 65 or 70% of the time and they won’t give it back to you. We know Spain have dominated world football for four years but there are some signs that teams can trouble them. If you defend against Spain, if you stay compact, if in the first 20 to 30 minutes you show you really are in the game, then you are going to have an opportunity to win. First of all you have to fulfil these criteria or you can get punished.
Not the best predictor in the world but I think Spain have just not been good enough this time around. France will just about edge past the Spanish armada with a slender 2-1 victory.