Two of the tournament’s most electrifying teams do battle in a huge quarter-final clash from Ukraine Both squads had high hopes entering Euro 2012 with anything less than a championship being deemed a failure. However after lacklustre group stage games for both sides, France and Spain will need to be much better if they’re to progress to the semi-finals against Portugal.
With France, they opened the competition as one of the dark-horse teams to win the entire tournament. Laurent Blanc was said to have rejuvenated the side, and mended the rifts in the locker room which had previously damaged the side in major tournaments. However, after three matches, France have exuded none of their creativity and dynamic ability against inferior opponents. They were embarrassed in a winnable match against a hopeless Sweden squad, and as a result must face a powerful Spanish side to advance. Add in the fact, that rumours have again circulated in the French camp that in-fighting and dissension have grown to uncomfortable heights, and France will certainly be in tough on Saturday.
Spain meanwhile remain a cohesive bunch, but have yet to truly dazzle the spectators of this tournament. Against Croatia in their last match, Spain narrowly edged them out with a 1-0 victory, but it certainly wasn’t as easy as it should’ve been. Croatia mustered many solid chances, and Spain looked on the verge of bowing out of Euro 2012 on many occasions. The Spanish back-line is vulnerable to quick counter-attacks, and like their opponents on Saturday, Spain too must be at their absolute best to ensure advancement.
Spain vs France Betting Odds:
Spain (-125) / Draw (+250) / France (+440)
Over 2 (-115) / Under 2 (-105)
Match Analysis & Pick:
If you like skilled soccer, it will be at its best on Saturday evening as both sides possess plenty of it. These are two proud soccer nations, and though France have fallen on hard times of late, they still possess the necessary quality to defeat the defending champions in Spain. France are mired in turmoil right now, but players within their dressing room have said the venting was good for the team, and are now squarely focused on beating Spain.
If Les Bleus are to be successful in moving on, they’ll have to do so without the likes of central defender Phillippe Mexes who is suspended against Spain. Mexes has endured much criticism of late for his poor play, and many see his replacement of Laurent Koscielny as a better option altogether. Look for French coach Laurent Blanc to adopt a more cautious approach to playing the Spaniards, who will likely control the ball and possession for majority of the match.
Like they’ve done in their previous games, the Spaniards will again dictate the tempo of play and assert their will on the French. However, where Vicente del Bosque’s side has struggled so far has been finishing. Spain have been poor at turning lopsided possession numbers into tangible results, and against a dangerous French side, that will be worrying. While Spain does possess an advantage in the midfield, this will undoubtedly be their toughest test to date. The likes of Jeremy Menez, Samir Nasri, and Frank Ribery can wreak havoc on a Spanish back-line that looked in disarray to an inferior Croatian side. Moreover, French holding midfielder Yann M’Villa has just returned for Blanc’s side and will be integral in stifling the advances and creativity of the Spaniard attack.
Despite the individual quality of both these teams, expect a relatively cautious and tight marking affair. With Spain having most of the ball, the match will come down to how willing the French side will be at adopting Blanc’s game-plan and employing strong tactics to prevent a breakthrough. They certainly have the individual talent, and if they can come together as a team and rally around their recent dressing room squabbles, this French team is more than capable of securing the upset.
Blanc’s side will frustrate the Spanish for the majority of the match, resisting their advances at goal akin to the way the Italians and Croatians did. The one key difference however, is France possesses a wealth of finishing talent those other teams did not. France will hold off the Spaniards for the duration of the match, while eventually advancing on a late marker. This French team has quality throughout its squad, and the alleged disparity between these two sides is being overstated. France provides heavy value in this position. With Spain’s lack of goal-scoring prowess, the French will keep their opponents close, and could even secure an extra-time result. Ultimately, this will be a tight match, but one in which France will prevail, most likely in added-time.
PICK: France +0.5 Goals (+120)