Spain v France Line Up Preview. Euro 2012 Quarter-Final

The third quarter-final sees defending champions Spain take on Laurent Blanc’s France. Spain finished top of the group but at one point faced the prospect of being knocked out. They were fortunate that Croatia did not take their chances against them and they haven’t looked as invincible as some people think. For France we have been average, good and poor in that order in their games. A 2-0 loss to Sweden saw some in-fighting in the French team but reports that the squad is unsettled has been dismissed. France can be brilliant on their day but they can equally be awful, so this may be an open game or a one-sided affair for the Spanish.

Possible line-up for Spain v France.

  • It’s boring to mention but Spain will again dominate the ball. It’s quite tedious to mention the possession stats when talking about Spain but they have won over 50% of the ball in all of their matches so far. Again the midfield combination of Busquets, Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta will pass the ball around without looking threatening but wearing the opposition down.
  • Will Torres start? Del Bosque has started without a striker against Italy and then withdrew Torres after 60 mins against Croatia. Spain just look a better side when they have someone to spear head their attacks and Torres did look good against Ireland and lively against Croatia. If he doesn’t start Cesc Fabregas is likely to be reintroduced after operating in the false nine position against Italy and he came on to score a thunderous goal against Ireland late in that match.
  • The big surprise for Spain is that Fernando Llorente hasn’t featured at all so far. Del Bosque has turned to Jesus Navas as his impact sub and that looks to continue in this match. Llorente may feel somewhat aggrieved after having an impressive season with Athletic Bilbao.
  • Defensively Spain’s Arbeloa has looked like the weak link in the back line. He can get caught out of position and allows players in get in-behind him. He will face a challenge in trying to keep Ribery quite in this match. Ribery has had a quite tournament but he is a player that can light up a match at any time.
  • For France they were very poor against Sweden and where probably guilty of approaching the match with the wrong mind-set. They underestimated the Swedes and were punished for it. Hatem Ben Arfa started in that match but didn’t take his chances, a spot on the bench looks likely for the Newcastle man.
  • Yohan Cabaye missed out on that match as an injury precaution but he should return to the midfield at Ben Arfa’s expense. At the back Laurent Koscielny will start due to Philippe Mexes being suspended. Many in France have called for Koscielny to start ahead of Mexes and now he gets his chance in probably the hardest match of his career. Interestingly Blanc only choose three centre-backs in his squad so if Rami or Koscielny are injured or set off in this match a midfielder may have to fill in defense.
  • Gael Clichy went missing at left-back in the build up to Sweden’s second goal and that kind of defensive lap against the Spanish would be suicidal. Blanc may pick the more experienced Patrice Evra who started the first match against England but lost his spot to Clichy in the next two matches.
  • France will continue playing a 4-3-3 system and will look to Italy as an example as how to take on the Spaniards. Against Italy Spain looked unsettled when faced with a side that was able to put up with their heavy pressing and were able to pass their way out of trouble. France have players with the technique to keep that ball and are more than capable of passing the ball around the Spanish.
  • After Blanc’s criticism of England parking the bus against his side it would be highly unlikely that France would approach this match in a defensive manner. If they do try to take an offensive approach it could eat into Spain’s hands. Spain will be hoping France try to attack as La Roja do struggle at times to make clear-cut chances when sides defend in numbers against them. But when sides attack them it leaves space for them to exploit.
  • Karim Benzema has still yet to hit the back of the net at this tournament but will start as France do not have many striking options. The only other real striker in the squad is Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud who has limited experience at international level.
  • Against Croatia Spain never took advantage of the numerous corners that they won. They had 11 corners but never looked threatening form one of them. Xavi took all 11 corners but each delivery was very similar and predictable. A bit more variety from set-plays could be needed against France.
  • Prediction: Spain 2 France 0. Spain’s passing to undo a French side that is still a work in progress. France should start the match positively only for the Spanish to wear them down.

Xabi Alonso’s passing in midfield may have gone unnoticed but he is a vital cog in the Spanish machine.

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