The Spaniards take on the French on the 23rd at the Donbask Arena in Donetsk
The “Red Fury” topped Group C as expected with a score of 7 after two wins against the Republic of Ireland and Croatia and a draw with Italy. The defending champions barely won against Croatia with a late goal but thrashed the Irish 4-0. It was Italy that gave them a run for their money as always ending the match in a draw. Currently Spain looks solid and are expected to bring their aggressive brand of football into the Quarter-finals against France whose 23 unbeaten matches in a row, only to be ended by Sweden, goes to show that the French should not be taken lightly.
But the Spaniards are yet to be tested and the nonappearance of main striker David Villa and defender Carlos Puyol can put the team in a compromising situation. A waning defense was already apparent during the game against the Croatians.
Group D Runners-up, France, would have conceived a better score than their final 4 had not the Swedes ended their match in a shocker with France losing 2-0. This ended their 23 unbeaten match record. Nevertheless, France made it to the Quarter-finals face to face with the best team in the tournament. This may seem unfair, even for a team that is considered one of the major contenders for the Delauny Trophy.The French need to pick up pace and tidy up their already impeccable attack skills. This can thoroughly compromise the Spanish defense lead to a great upset. In other words, they really need to work hard to achieve the unlikely.
Spain vs France Predictions: Spain wins 1-0
It’s either the Spanish look too strong or the French seem a little weaker. Being easily overpowered by Sweden, a team that finished at the bottom of the Group, proved that the French may have consistency issues. Their poor performance during the closer points to a weakening defense and a faltering attack.
Xabi Alonso scored two goals in his 100th international appearance Saturday, leading Spain to a 2-0 win over France and a spot in the European Championship semifinals.
Alonso first scored with a thumping downward header in the 19th minute and then converted a penalty in injury time.
"We knew this was the most important match and we played very well," Alonso said. "Scoring the early goal really made things easy, so I must say we're happy."
The win was Spain's first over France in a competitive match in seven attempts. Spain will next face Portugal on Wednesday in Donetsk in the semifinals as it bids to win a third straight major title.
"When you lose a game there's always something missing, I'm not sure if it's possession or technical ability," France coach Laurent Blanc said. "The lads gave everything and it's very hard to play against Spain. We blocked their left flank, which is their strong point."
The opening goal was the result of excellent one-touch football - the hallmark of Spain's game. Andres Iniesta prodded the ball through for Jordi Alba, who whipped a perfect cross from the left to Alonso. The Real Madrid midfielder timed his run so well that no France defender picked him up.
"He knows how to sacrifice himself, help the team and where to play," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "He is one of the attacking strengths of ours. He knows how to create and finish."
Spain wrapped things up after France right back Anthony Reveillere barged into substitute forward Pedro Rodriguez in injury time. Alonso coolly sent goalkeeper Hugo Lloris the wrong way from the spot, looking right but clipping the ball firmly to the left.
France's only shot on target came in the 32nd minute when Yohan Cabaye’s free kick was tipped over by Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
"They were there for the taking," Blanc said. "We knew we would get some chances, and the only thing I regret is that they scored off their first good chance. If we had gone in level at 0-0 at halftime, then I think we would have had more room in the second half."
The match was sometimes dull, but the Spanish did not really need to change gears after Alonso's opening goal.
Although the French made it out of the group stage for the first time since the 2006 World Cup, the manner of Saturday's loss will be disappointing for a team touted as one of the tournament's dangerous outsiders.
France formed a deep defensive line and watched awe-struck as Spain flicked the ball around as if it were a training session. The Spanish made dummy runs everywhere early on, and had a penalty claim waved away in the sixth minute when Cesc Fabregas tumbled under a challenge from left back Gael Clichy.
Spain soon pulled a compact France team out of position in the 10th minute as Iniesta curled a ball behind center half Adil Rami but it was too far for Fabregas to reach.
Karim Benzema, looking for his first goal at a major tournament, looked sharp and made some good runs, but the Real Madrid striker rarely got any service. He was fouled in the 32nd after galloping onto Florent Malouda's pass, and Cabaye's free kick was sailing into the top left corner before Casillas shuffled across quickly to save it.
While the French averted a repeat of the 2010 World Cup crisis - when the entire squad went on strike at training - the buildup to Saturday's game was marred by tensions in the camp following a heated dressing room bust-up after the 2-0 loss to Sweden.
"The big teams have all showed up at this Euro, and they will be in the semifinals," Blanc said. "Unfortunately, France won't be."
EURO 2012: Spain vs France Timeline
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