2012 UEFA European Soccer Championship Quarterfinals
France vs Spain
Donbass Arena – Donetsk, Ukraine
Saturday, June 23, 2012, 2:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Point Spread: Spain -1/2 -138 / France +1/2 +118
Total: 2 over -125 / 2 under +105
Three Way Line: Spain -140 / France +400 / Draw +250
Odds to Advance: Spain -250 / France +200
Point Spread, Total, and Three Way include regulation and stoppage time only. Advance includes extra time and/ or shootout.
Spain and France share a border, and thus are natural rivals. The two countries will meet for the 31st time ever Saturday in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals. The winner will face Portugal in next week’s semifinals. Spain holds a narrow 13-6-11 advantage against France, but the French have won the last two meetings. France won 3-1 in the round of 16 in the 2006 World Cup, and 2-1 in the quarters of Euro 2000.
Spain, managed by Vicente Del Bosque is trying to do something no other country in history has done, winning three major international tournaments in a row. Spain is the defending Euro and World Cup champ. Spain won Group C at Euro 2012 with 7 points. Spain played to a 1-1 draw against Italy to open group play and then crushed Ireland 4-0. Spain beat Croatia 1-0 in the last game to secure the group title. Since Spain lost to Switzerland in group play at the 2010 World Cup, the Spanish haven’t suffered a loss in 17 competitive games. They have lost 4 friendlies in the last 14.
France, managed by Laurent Blanc, hadn’t lost in 20 games coming into Euro 2012. The French played to a 1-1 draw against an English team playing without Wayne Rooney to open group play. France looked dominant in a 2-0 win over tournament co-host Ukraine in the second round. The Group D title was theirs’ for the taking, but France lost 2-0 to a Sweden team that was already eliminated from the tournament. The loss dropped France to second place in the group behind England and set up a date with Spain in the quarters. It also reportedly led to the same infighting and mutiny that led to an early exit from the 2010 World Cup for Les Bleus. Blanc admitted there were some harsh words exchanged between himself and the players, but insists it isn’t a big deal.
Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas has only allowed 1 goal in three games. He hasn’t faced a lot of chances though, as Spain usually dominates possession.
Spain employs a 4-5-1 attack that many criticize for being boring because the midfielders dominate possession. You can’t argue with the results though, as Spain is the best team in the world right now according to many experts. La Roja looked a little listless in the 1-0 Croatia win, only scoring with about 10 minutes left in the match. Spain is missing striker David Villa who is out with a broken leg. Fernando Torres looked great against Ireland but missed some chances against Italy. He disappeared against Croatia. There is some question whether Del Bosque will keep Torres as the striker or move midfielder Cesc Fabregas to that spot. Dynamic playmaker Xavi will look to create the offense.
French keeper Hugo Lloris has allowed 3 goals in the tournament. He kept a clean sheet against Ukraine but allowed 2 goals against Sweden, including one late in stoppage when the game was pretty much decided.
France will use a 4-2-3-1 attack, and the strength is the midfield. They will be without midfielder Philippe Mexes, due to yellow cards, but that might not be a bad thing. Replacement Laurent Koscielny is younger and quicker than Mexes and might match-up better against the speedy Spanish team. Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri will look to set-up Karim Benzema around the net. Yohan Cabaye returns from a thigh injury.
Remarkably, all 13 of Spain’s wins against France have come in friendlies. They have never beaten France in a competitive game. That could change in this match as Spain is the deeper and more talented team. France has a lot of egos and doesn’t really have a team leader in control. Some say France might just lock down on defense and take their chances in extra time or penalty kicks. I think France will be aggressive though. Spain wins a close 1-0 game though.
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