Spain's national soccer players attend a training session at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, June 22, 2012. Spain will play its quarter-final of the Euro 2012 soccer championships against France in Donetsk on June 23. (Photo : REUTERS/Juan Medina)
Spain and France is one of the highly anticipated matches of the tournament. The two teams have faced each other numerous times in major tournaments and a slight rivalry has been built between the two Western European nations. France eliminated the Spaniards on route to winning the 2000 Euro Cup and was also at fault for Spain's elimination from the 2006 World Cup.
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However, times have since changed with Spain being the defending Euro Cup and World Cup champions.
Neither team however has played to the level of expectation thrust on them. Spain looked rather ordinary against a tremendous defensive effort form both Italy and Croatia in matches that seemed to favor their opponents. They had a tremendous match against Ireland, but the Irish were easily the worst team in the entire tournament.
France had a decent match against England in the first game of Group D, but then overpowered Ukraine in a virtuosic offensive display. However, that match seemed to mean little as France was not prepared to play against Sweden and lost 2-0. They were the only team that passed from the group stages that lost its final match of group play.
Key Player of the Match
Cesc Fabregas has been Spain's top player. He has been quiet throughout the tournament, mainly because he's been on the bench throughout, but he has made noise at all the right moments. Italy had a 1-0 lead and looked to take down Spain. Who answers and ties the game? Fabregas. Croatia is clogging the box area and cutting off all of Spain's trademark through balls. Who finds a way to get the ball over the defense and set up Spain's winning goal? Fabregas. Del Bosque hasn't figured out how to combine Fabregas and Xavi's similar playing styles into the juggernaut offense, but he must. Fabregas has proven to be clutch when his team has needed him to be. If he starts, look for him to help create numerous offensive chances for Spain and give the French defense headaches.
Spain Will Win If...
It wears down France with their trademark possession game and forces them into impatient mistakes. Spain needs to keep the tempo of the game down, because France is capable of rushing on the counterattack. Like Spain, France depends on a possession game and will be very aggressive in attempting to get the ball back as much as possible. They have the weapons to make Spain pay for mistakes, but if those weapons (Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery among others) can't touch the ball, Spain's road to victory becomes much easier.
France Will Win If...
They pressure Spain and force them into a faster paced match. France is not as strong defensively as Italy or Croatia and they rely on a possession game much like Spain does. Howeve,r their skill level is not on the same level as Spain's and if they allow the Iberians to control possession and employ a slow pace, France will be ineffective. They need to force Spain into mistakes and take control of the ball as much as possible. Only then will they win.
Prediction: Spain does what it does best of late: win a 1-0 match. They won four straign 1-0 battles en route to the World Cup Championship and will look to do the same here. France will bring some scares, but goalkeeper Iker Casillas will do as he always does and make the big save. In the end, Spain will control possession and an inevitable late goal in the second half will put them through to the Semi-Finals.
The winner plays against Portugal.
Watch Spain Vs. France Live Stream Here.
June 24: England Vs. Italy 2:45 ET
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