Quarterfinal #3- Spain (Group C Winner) v. France (Group D Runner-Up)
Last Meeting- 2010 (Paris) Spain 2 France 0
Outlook- This game could have two very different outcomes. It all will be decided based on how France decides to play against the Spanish. The Spanish do not change the way they play for anyone. They play a short controlled passing game that looks to slice and dice the opposition through precise one-touch passing and unbelievable amounts of possession to unlock the defense.
The French have played against this style and scouted it. They know what’s coming. How do they approach it? If they sit back and try to counterattack this style of play, Spain will eventually break through and win the game as they have done throughout this tournament by a score of 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1. Many prognosticators feel that the strategy to play is to sit back and counter. I disagree. The only way for the French to win today is to attack at all times. They must force the issue and play offense against the Spanish. Force them to work in their own end, force them to make difficult passes all over the field, increase the pressure and outscore them. Not every team can do this against Spain. Only ultra talented offensive players can do this and France has them. IF (and it’s a big if) the French attack, you could see a 2-2 (Extra Time), 3-2, 3-3 (ET) or 4-3 score line at the end of this one.
Offense- For France, Karim Benzema has to recapture his form. He has no goals in the tournament for France and needs to link up with Franck Ribery, Sami Nasri and Florent Malouda in attack to put the Spanish under pressure. Ribery needs to shed his label of disappointment in big games. There is no better stage than playing the best team in the world in the Euro quarterfinals. Benzema will need help and Ribery has to provide it. Nasri needs to play his best game as well. He can provide goals if he is motivated to play. Yohan Cabaye is also a threat in the area and can score from distance with the blistering pace he can put on the ball. I think the French need to start Jeremy Menez. He ahs shown flashes of brilliance in this tournament and can provide a spark on the wing in attack
For Spain, they cannot get complacent. They cannot get frustrated. As the competition gets better, they will have fewer and fewer chances to score and Fernando Torres must be more clinical in his finishing against the French if he gets the start. Xavi and Andres Iniesta will provide chances for whoever starts at forward for the Spanish (Torres, Fabregas, Llorente, Navas). David Silva could be the most important player for Spain up front. If he can work efficiently with Torres up front, Spain will have the edge. That remains to be seen.
Midfield- The French will probably go with Cabaye, Y’ann M’Vila and Alou Diarra. They are going to have to play the best game of their careers in trying to slow down the Spanish attack in the midfield. If they can get some turnovers and connect with the blistering pace of Nasri and Ribery, they can cause the Spanish some serious problems.
This is the Spanish strength of their team. Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso might be the best midfield unit in the world. They control the game with their impeccable passing and decision making. They need to stay focused and composed and play the way they know how. The will break the French down if they can maintain possession and put passes together like the Swedes did.
Defense- For France, the two center backs need to play ridiculously well for them to advance. No Philippe Mexes (suspension) which means that Coach Laurent Blanc will select Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami to combat the Spanish. Both had poor games against Sweden and need to play a lot better to contend with the Spanish attack. The wing backs are key in this game. Gael Clichy and Mathieu Debuchy will need to get forward in attack for the French to win this game. Both are blessed with speed and are well-skilled. They can help by delivering crosses in the box for the French forwards to attack. They will also need to use that speed to get back on defense if they do decide to join the attack. If you want to see what style of play the French have decided to play, watch these two men and see if they get up the field with regularity. If so, Blanc has decided to attack. If not, he has decided to park the bus and focus on defense.
For Spain, Sergio Ramos and Gerald Pique have solidified the Spanish defense and both are extremely talented in the heart of defense. The wing backs will be under attack. Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba will have to deal with Ribery and Nasri who will be in attack mode whenever they get the chance. Whomever gets the better of those matchups will be critical to the outcome of this game.
Goal- Both goalies are among the best in the world. Hugo Lloris for France is somewhat underrated. He is a top-flight goaltender whose decision making makes him among the elite in the game. Iker Casillas for Spain has catlike reflexes and communicates extremely well with his defenders. Both goalies will have to make critical saves for their teams to win with more pressure on Lloris as I anticipate the Spanish will have more attempts on goal.
Outcome- All depends on style of play. If France attacks, they could take the Spanish by surprise and put them into some difficulty. If they do this, I think France could win this game. Unfortunately, Coach Laurent Blanc is a defensive coach who will probably try the more cautious approach to play the dangerous Spanish and they will fall like many others who tried to do the same thing.
Final- Spain 2 France 1
About the Author
Written by Michael Jenkins
I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Graduated from THE University of Arizona. I now reside part time in San Francisco, CA. I am a diehard Phoenix Coyotes fan (season ticket holder since Day 1) and a diehard Chelsea FC fan. I am passionate, energetic and highly grateful to get the opportunity to work in this business again.