Having arguably changed the face of football with their free flowing, eloquent ‘tiki taka’ football, Spain find themselves coming up against a France side that considers itself more than capable of reproducing a similar style. Since joining France after the fracas of the 2010 World Cup, Laurent Blanc has instilled a methodology of quick passing and movement that emulates that of the current world champions.
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After picking up his second booking of the tournament against Sweden, Milan defender Philippe Mexes will be sidelined, making way for Arsenal centre back Laurent Koscielny. Samir Nasri (knee) and Franck Ribery (blisters) missed training on Wednesday but France assistant coach Alain Boghossian said both would be fit to face Spain in Donetsk.
Despite experimenting with his attacking options, Vicente del Bosque is tipped to stick with Fernando Torres up top. After scoring twice against Ireland, the Chelsea striker is expected to retain his place as a natural frontman.
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Denying all rumours of unrest in the France camp after their recent form-breaking defeat to Sweden, which ended a run of 23 games unbeaten, Blanc admits that his side will need to beat Spain at their own game and break down their possession in order to win.
After finishing top of Group C with 7 points, Spain will enter this game with confidence, even though their final group stage performance against Croatia was an uncharacteristically cagey affair.
HEAD TO HEAD- major tournaments
These sides last met in the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup when France beat Spain 3-1 and went on to the final which they lost to Italy. But with an extensive inside knowledge of France dangerman Karim Benzema, who netted 21 times for Real Madrid last season, the Spanish defence will want to avoid a repeat of what happened six years ago.
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Andres Iniesta vs Samir Nasri
Their meeting with Croatia may not have been the most attractive game played by Vicente del Bosque’s side, but their patient build up play and well worked passing enabled them to leave the game with the 3 points. Andres Iniesta admits that although Spain performed poorly, they still went home with the win but will need to be prepared for a battle against the French. The 28-year-old has been one of Spain’s most influential players this tournament alongside his Barcelona teammate Xavi and Spain will look to continue their run of 17 competitive matches unbeaten but will need to improve on their last fixture to beat France.
With a host of talented artists in the midfield, Les Bleus have it in their locker to produce some very attractive football, and they do so with stars such as Samir Nasri. The ex-Arsenal man looked comfortable during their 1-1 draw against England as he beat pal Joe Hart with a great right footed strike. That said, France’s loss to Sweden will have put doubts in their minds and Blanc has only 2 out-and-out strikers at his disposal, namely Karim Benzema, who is yet to score in the tournament, and recent Gunners signing, Olivier Giroud.
|Croatia 0-1 Spain||Sweden 2-0 France|
|Spain 4-0 Ireland||Ukraine 0-2 France|
|Spain 1-1 Italy||France 1-1 England|
|Spain 1-0 China||France 4-0 Estonia|
|Spain 4-1 South Korea||France 2-0 Serbia|
STATS & FACTS
•Spain have never won against France in a major tournament (one World Cup and three European Championship encounters).
•France are the only side to have beaten Spain twice at the Euros – excluding penalty shootouts (beating them in 1984 and in 2000).
•Spain have never won a European Championship quarter-final in regulation time.
•Spain were the only team to keep more than one clean sheet in the group stages of Euro 2012.
•Karim Benzema has had 15 shots so far at Euro 2012 – but no goals to show for his efforts.
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