Somehow, through the changes of time, Spain are considered as favorites against France, their Euro 2012 quarterfinals opponents. Despite never beating France in a competitive match, drawing once and losing five times. But things change, and Spain are European and World Champions. France, despite the talent, are a locker room mess.
Instead of finishing first in the group, setting them up with Italy, France lost to Sweden in a terrible display which led to a big locker room fight, some saying Laurent Blanc was involved in as well, going at it with Hatem Ben Arfa. Don’t expect the Newcastle midfielder to find his way to the pitch today. The good news for Blanc is the return of Ribery and Nasri, who weren’t completely healthy going into the previous match.
Blanc has also to decide who he puts next to Diarra, but after giving the chance to the young Yann M’Vila against Sweden, it’ll be safe to assume that Cabaye will win his place back in the lineup. Like in every match against Spain, the key will be finding a way to disrupt their passing game and slow it down, hopefully drawing more Spanish players out of their positions and then strike through a counter attack. France do have a very quick front with Ribery and Benzema, both still looking for their first goals in the tournament.
For Del Bosque, it’s about one simple choice. Striker, or no striker? Spain aren’t the national version of Barcelona as some expect them to be. It’s a world of difference without someone like Lionel Messi in the lineup but still, Del Bosque needs to decide if he goes with Fernando Torres as his striker from the start or give Cesc Fabregas the opening opportunity again, and go once more with the 4-6-0.
The usual dynamic – Spain retain possession and simply frustrate their opponents into submission. It barely worked against Croatia, it was only enough for a draw against Italy and a more direct 4-5-1 worked perfectly against Ireland. France will have a harder time defending for 90 minutes, unlike other teams, due to their own attacking ambitions and not having the strongest of defensive units.
Prediction – Spain aren’t impressing anyone with their style, but they’ve conceded only one goal in three matches. It’s hard to hurt you when you always have the ball. France have the talent to hurt Spain, but they don’t seem to be coming into the match in the best of moods and motivations. Spain to the Semi Final against Portugal.