Spain has never beaten France in a major competition, but are heavy favorites to win Saturday’s Euro 2012 quarterfinal. The game presents the most anticipated match-up of this quarterfinal round, so there’s no need to build it up any further.
1 – Has Spain lost some of its invincibility?
It’s amazing that a team that’s won the last two major tournaments with basically the same players on its current team could be considered less threatening. That is the case with Spain right now, but it’s mostly the coach’s fault. Vicente del Bosque has gotten overconfident with his squad. In their first game he thought they could play without a true striker and they drew against an Italian team they should’ve beaten. He pulled Fernando Torres for a winger in the team’s third game and was lucky to get the win. This isn’t a game of FIfa where you put out your 11 best players even if they’re all midfielders. Eventually it will catch up to them.
2 – Can France rebound from their loss to Sweden?
France squandered numerous scoring opportunities in their 2-0 loss to Sweden on Tuesday night, but they weren’t mentally prepared for the game. They figured the Swedes would already be halfway home to Stockholm and they were sorely mistaken. Now they face a much tougher opponent in the knockout stage, but at least they should be focused on the game. The biggest problem is that they’re a young team, so they haven’t dealt with real failure before. They’ll have to hope the confidence of youth outweighs doubt.
3 – Where can France find weakness in Spain?
The Spanish defense still needs to be tested. It didn’t really happen in the group stage because of the other opponents in the group. France can attack from the wings with Franck Ribery and likely Samir Nasri. They could wreak havoc on the Spanish backs and create opportunities for Karim Benzema to finish. In order to do that they’ll have to play much better than they have so far in the tournament.
4 – Will Spain regain their scoring touch?
Despite scoring four goals against Ireland (honestly, who didn’t score against Ireland?), Spain failed to score more than one goal in their other two group games. They’re really missing David Villa. If del Bosque does the smart thing and plays Torres up front and replaces him with Fernando Llorente later in the game, goals should come from Spain. Their passing is too good. We’re just not sure if he’ll do the smart thing.
5 – So who wins?
France’s loss to Sweden showed some cracks in their armor. Their unbeaten streak only had a couple quality wins and now confidence is a little shaken. Spain may not be playing its’ best football, but they should be able to do enough to advance. Given how things have been going, I see this game going to penalties with Spain squeezing through.
Final Score: Spain 1 France 1 (Spain advances 4-3 on penalty kicks)
Draw in 90 minutes (+250)
Even amount of total goals scored (-120)