This game will kick-off at 19:45 GMT.
Formation and Team News:
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Debuchy, Koscielny, Rami, Clichy, Cabaye, M’Vila, Menez, Nasri, Ribery, Benzema.
Spain (4-3-2-1): Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Alonso, Xavi, Silva, Iniesta, Torres.
Laurent Koscielny will replace the suspended Philippe Mexes at the heart of the French defence. Cabaye could also be back in the starting line-up after missing the game against Sweden due to a thigh injury. It seems likely that Jeremy Menez will start this game after France’s less than impressive display against Sweden in his absence, ending the French 23 game unbeaten run. Also, with the disappointing form of Samir Nasri, Blanc may even attempt to turn the midfield into a battlefield by dropping Nasri and instead going with Diarra, Cabaye and M’Vila, giving Cabaye the freedom to break forward as a box-to-box midfielder.
Del Bosque isn’t expected to make any changes to his line-up.
What To Expect
Blanc has been emphatic in his praise of Del Bosque’s Spain. He knows to try and match them for possession may be romantic but it will not end successfully. France, just like any other team that Spain come across, will sit tight and pick their opportunities when to attack carefully. If Blanc does decide to play all three of Diarra, Cabaye and M’Vila, the match-up against the Spanish midfield will be very interesting. The extra physicality those three will offer will be an almighty barrier for the Spain to surpass. The French wingers will have the majority of the responsibility to hurt Spain. They, along with Benzema playing off the shoulder of the centre-backs, will be the out balls for the French to counter or even just to temporarily relieve pressure.
Spain as always will dominate possession. They have not conceded a goal in the knock-out stages of a tournament for six years now. And although almost every team hopes to catch them on the counter, the Spanish are exceptionally cautious in their approach. So cautious in fact that some have detracted their style by branding them “boring”. Del Bosque’s measured direction for this game will put limitations on the attacking freedom of the Spanish full-backs. The most likely place France can hurt you is down the wings and Jordi Alba and Arbeloa will be thoroughly aware of this danger.
Key Man – France
When France turnover possession, it will be critical to make the most happen with the ball in the shortest amount of time. For this reason Yann M’Vila will be crucial. He will be charged with doing much of the organising of the French defensive barricade when Spain have possession. M’Vila is also the most incisive passer of any of the French defensive midfielders and he has a very keen eye for a long diagonal pass. This ability could be pivotal in countering any chinks in the Spanish armour quickly. As soon as M’Vila gets possession he will try to find Ribery and Menez instantly in order the shift the phase of play out wide. If M’Vila is on song against the Spanish he will be a tower of hope for France both defensively and offensively.
Key Man – Spain
David Silva is the joint top assister at the tournament so far with three assists. His penchant for findng those neat little passes through a sea of bodies could be the difference maker in eventually breaking through a clustered Maginot Line. Torres has also shown some signs of life and Silva will be one of the playmakers expected to serve and supply him with chances. Silva’s ability to circulate possession will also be crucial if Spain take the lead and want to punish the French by maintaining possession and drawing them out of their shells.
France certainly have the firepower to cause an upset here but major questions again hover over this squad’s collective mentality and togetherness. Spain on the other hand look a far cry from that and the motto “all for one and one for all” can fittingly be applied to them. It is hard to see a defence of Rami, Clichy and Koscielny indefitintely holding out this Spanish attack and the erratic form of Benzema, Menez and Nasri for Les Bleus also raises further doubts. Spain have been setting a rhythm in their previous games and they will settle into it against versus France.They are a well-oiled machine bursting with experience at this level and I feel they will be a task too much for the French.
France 0-1 Spain