Spain v France: Euro 2012 match preview

 

With two quarter-finals done in Euro 2012, Spain face up to France in what promises to be the closest encounter of the knockout stage so far.

We run the microscope over both teams; identifying the key battles and providing all the stats and facts you need for tonight’s match…

 

KEY BATTLES…

Fernando Torres v Laurent Koscielny

Despite scoring two in the tournament so far, Fernando Torres is still not showing his form of old. Two goals against Ireland proved he still has it, but no one ever knows which Torres will turn up. Laurent Koscielny has not yet featured in the tournament but looks like the likely replacement for the suspended Philippe Mexes. The Arsenal man will have to brush off any cobwebs in training to ensure he is at the top of his game for tonight’s clash, because even if Torres forgets his shooting boots, his movement is first rate and will exploit any gaps in the French defence.

Alou Diarra  v David Silva

This is a critical match-up for the French if they are to stand any chance of preventing the Rojas from breaching their defence. David Silva has looked ominous in attack in this tournament and has the joint most assists alongside Steven Gerrard and Andrei Arshavin. Silva can play from wide or just behind the front man exploiting the space between the opposition’s defence and midfield, and at times in this tournament has been too hot for the defence to handle. As we have seen so far the Spaniard has the ability to provide that killer ball. Alou Diarra will need to keep tight on the nippy midfielder and prevent him from having too much possession in dangerous areas.

Karim Benzema v Sergio Ramos

The battle between these two Real Madrid team-mates will be crucial and they will be looking to exploit their inside knowledge of each other’s game. In their last Group C game Croatia created chances and showed that the Spanish defence could be unlocked and Karim Benzema, who was in deadly form last season, will surely not be as wasteful as Slaven Bilic’s men should a chance come his way. Spain will most likely have the majority of the possession so Sergio Ramos will have to concentrate and not switch off for a second otherwise his club-mate will punish him.

Franck Ribery v Alvaro Arbeloa

Alvaro Arbeloa has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism in the Spanish press recently with people calling for him to be replaced. The Real Madrid full-back however has huge experience and will need all of it to deal with France’s tricky winger. The Spaniard is also on a yellow card so will have to be extra careful when going in for tackles and that could play on his mind. Franck Ribery has the speed to round his opposite man and cross the ball in, as well as the skill and ability to cut inside and look for a pass or shot. This variation in his game makes him impossible to predict and means that Arbeloa could be in for a torrid time should he not be at the top of his game. The Frenchman has not dazzled at the tournament yet but tonight’s clash could be his time to shine.

 

FACTS AND STATS…

Spain finished top of Group C. They drew their first match 1-1 against Italy and then ran rampant against Ireland in a 4-0 victory. Their last game was an unconvincing 1-0 win against Croatia.

France were runners up in Group D. They started their campaign with a 1-1 draw with England followed by a 2-0 victory over Ukraine. However their last game was a shock 2-0 defeat to Sweden that saw them lose top spot.

The winner of tonight’s game will contest a semi-final with the winner of Sunday night’s tie between England and Italy.

Yellow Cards:

France: Jeremy Menez, Mathieu Debuchy.

Spain: Jordi Alba, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Javi Martinez.

 

DID YOU KNOW…

Iker Casillas has been in the Spanish side since 2000, and he is the most capped player in the history of the Spanish team with 134 caps, having recently passed long-time record-holder Andoni Zubizarreta.

Spain went undefeated for a record-equalling 35 consecutive matches between November 2006 and June 2009 before their loss to the United States, a record shared with Brazil. This included a record 15-match winning streak.

The French national team has won one Fifa World Cup title, two Uefa European Championships, Olympic gold, and two Fifa Confederations Cups. Following France’s 2001 Confederations Cup victory, they joined Argentina as the only two national teams to win the three most important titles organised by Fifa.

In 1984 current Uefa President Michel Platini helped France win their first European Championship by scoring the opening goal in the final and winning the Golden Boot for nine goals in the tournament.

One ray of hope for the French is that history is on their side. The pair have met four times in major competitions with the French unbeaten:

1984 European Championships: Final - Spain 0 France 2 (Paris)

1996 European Championships: Group stage - Spain 1 France 1 (Leeds)

2000 European Championships: Quarter final - Spain 1 France 2 (Brugges)

2006 World Cup: Last 16 - Spain 1 France 3 (Hanover)

 

PREDICTIONS…

The Euro Club Index names Spain as strong favourites with a 78.2 per cent chance of progressing to the semi-final. France’s disappointing display in the competition so far leaves them with just a 21.2 per cent chance of victory, which incidentally is worse than Greece’s chances were against Germany.

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