22nd June 2012
Having suffered a narrow escape in their final group game against Croatia, Spain need to show a major improvement if they are to stay on track to third successive title at major tournaments. France, too, need to raise their game after losing to Sweden on Tuesday, and les Bleus will be hoping to repeat the performance that saw them outclass very good Ukraine side in the second round.
Never have a national team won three major tournaments in a row, meaning that Spain have got a great chance to enter the history books by winning the Euro 2012, having already won Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup. That could prove to be almost impossible task unless La Furia Roja can show a major improvement on their performances from the group stage. Vincent del Bosque’s side may have won the first place in what was a very difficult group, but the fact they were completely outplayed by both Italy and Croatia is a cause for concern. Spain still boast a star-studded squad, packed with players who can make a real difference on the pitch, but it appears that the lack of an in-form striker is proving to be a major bother. Del Bosque’s experiments with Fabregas as a false nine have utterly failed even if the Barcelona midfielder has scored two goals, so it seems that Fernando Torres will be the tip of the attack once again.
Following the disappointing exit from the 2010 World Cup and all the problems that arose during Raymond Domenech’s reign, not too many people believed France could qualify for the Euro 2012, let alone fight for the title at the tournament finals. This is why Laurent Blanc has got to be congratulated for restoring the order in the national team ever so quickly and getting les Bleus back where they belong. After doing really well in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, France had a bright start to the tournament finals, with four points from first two games helping them secure progress to the quarter-finals. Les Bleus were then very disappointing in their final group game against Sweden, but having had enough time to prepare for the Spain clash, they are expected to regroup and produce another convincing performance. It remains to be seen whether that will be enough for a positive result.
This match seems too close to call given that neither side are on top of their game at the moment. Spain may be the favourites here, but with their build-up play very poor at the moment, La Furia Roja could need a while to break compact France side. Taking also into account that both sides are likely to adopt a cautious approach, draw at half-time looks a good bet here.
Verdict: Draw at half-time
Best Odds: 21/20
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