Holders Spain enter the knockout stages on Saturday, as they take on France in the third of four Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
Spain have been criticised by the media in their homeland due to the nature of their play so far in Ukraine and Poland, as the world champions have not hit the heights of 2008 and 2010 as yet. Vicente del Bosque’s men did top Group C however, with a 1-1 draw against Italy followed by wins over Republic of Ireland and Croatia.
La Roja started their first game against Italy with no recognised forwards in their line-up, as David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas were given the task of breaking from midfield to get the goals. This was soon changed as Fernando Torres came into the side against Ireland, with the Chelsea man bagging a brace. Jesus Navas scored a late winner against the Croats in an unconvincing display.
One feels that Del Bosque is still to decide on his best line-up and formation, but despite the side not fully hitting their straps as yet the quality they possess is frightening. The attacking players at Spain’s disposal means they go into the clash with France as favourites, and are still one of the frontrunners to lift the trophy come July 1st.
France qualify for the last eight as Group D runners-up, finishing behind England in the pool. A 23-match unbeaten record came to an end in their last game, as Les Bleus were well-beaten 2-0 by Sweden. However, a 1-1 draw with England and 2-0 win over Ukraine were enough to get Laurent Blanc’s side through the pool.
Samir Nasri scored in the opener, whilst Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye netted against the co-hosts, however the French team will be slightly worried that Karim Benzema, the side’s sole striker, has not gotten off the mark yet. The Real Madrid forward will be up against his club team-mate Sergio Ramos on Saturday, and will look to get his first goal of the tournament.
Despite this, France’s main concerns will be at the back, as a shaky performance against the Swedes will have the Spaniards licking their lips. Phillippe Mexes put in a questionable performance, and after a booking is now suspended for this game; Arsenal centre-half Laurent Koscielny will come into the team in his place. There were also rumours of a dressing room bust-up, and as such France have to pull together if they are to avoid elimination this weekend.