Euro 2012: QF3 Preview: Spain vs France


Euro 2012 Preview: Spain vs France
Donetsk, Jun 22: Reigning champions Spain look to continue their quest to retain the European Championship when they take on France in their Euro 2012 quarter-final clash at Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

France have never lost a competitive fixture against the defending World and European champions. The Les Bleus eliminated the Spanish side in the second round of 2006 World Cup. During the playing days of coach Laurent Blanc, France beat Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2000.

However, France were the last team to eliminate Spain from a major tournament. The La Roja Furia went on to lift the Euro trophy in 2008 and two years later claimed the FIFA World Cup for the first time in their history.

At Euro 2008, France were knocked out of the Group stage by Italy and Netherlands while their hapless run continued at the 2010 World Cup, finishing last in the Group stage.

Spain have only lost two competitive matches in 38 games since losing to the French in 2006. United States beat Spain during the FIFA Confederations cup in 2009 and also lost their World Cup opening fixture against Switzerland. The French ended their 23-match winning streak with 2-0 loss to Sweden.

Winners of Group C in the ongoing tournament, Spain were criticised for their approach and style during their last-decisive Group match against Croatia, but managed to win it through Jesus Navas' late goal.  Despite starting their Euro campaign on a high, the French were down by two goals against the already eliminated Swedes.

Despite that loss, France qualified to the last eight but several players admitted disharmony in the dressing room, namely Flourent Malouda, Hatim Ben Arfa and a few others marking a similar controversy which wrecked the French side at the World Cup in South Africa.

Laurent Blanc's side will miss defender Philippe Mexes at the heart of France's defense after picking up a second yellow during the 2-0 loss to Sweden. Arsenal centre back Laurent Koscielny is likely to replace the suspended AC Milan defender. Two of the most influential French players Samir Nasri and Frank Ribery were a doubt but returned to training and will probably feature on Sunday's clash against the Spaniards

Like any other side, the French will keep their tactics simple against the best passing side in the world. Defending deep in their own half and use the pace of Karim Benzema, Jeremy Menez and Ribery on the counter-attack. Spanish back-line was severely tested against the Croats but 'San' Iker Cassilas saved the day for his side.

Vicente Del Bosque is likely to retain the same side which narrowly won against Croatia. However, it is unlikely that Spain will play an all-out midfield attack. Several Spanish players are no the verge of suspension, Alvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javi Martinez all are one booking away from missing the semi-final match against Portugal should they make it.

France are highly depended on Ribery's pace and Nasri's trickery but lack of goals from frontman Benzema adds to the already tensed French camp.

Spain will stick to their philosophy and style but have looked shaky at the back. With pacey french wingers, Spanish full-backs will have their work cut out.

Probable Lineups:

Spain: Casillas-Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba-Busquets, Alonso-Iniesta, Xavi, Silva-Torres

France: Lloris-Debuchy, Koscielny, Rami, Clichy-Cabaye, M'Vila-Menez, Nasri, Ribery-Benzema

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