France’s shrugging defeat to Sweden on Tuesday means we don’t really know what we’re going to get here. If they’d trotted out the expected win against the Swedes you’d fancy them a bit to turn Spain over. In their last group game, the Spanish looked hopelessly short of ideas in the face of Croatia’s simple defensive strategy; then they allowed Ivan Rakitic a sitter of a chance and only won the game when Croatia were forced to make suicidal attacking substitutions.
Spain can’t win Euro 2012 playing like that, but they can certainly beat the French side who couldn’t really be bothered against Sweden, if they turn up again here.
Both teams are carrying misfiring centre forwards. Nobody is that surprised that Fernando Torres looks depressed and confused – technically he’s scored twice, but they were both against Ireland. The shock flop has been Karim Benzema, who was widely expected to be France’s big weapon but has so far played like, well, like Fernando Torres.
TOUS LES DEUX: Spain like to try to play right through the middle of you, which means a) passing it round your holding midfielders before b) slotting a ball beyond your central defenders. In the first category France have had the excellent pairing of Diarra and M’Vila; in the second, dodgy duo Rami and Mexes. Suspension and tactical changes mean new partnerships now in both areas.
TURN TO JESUS: Why doesn’t Vicente del Bosque play Jesus Navas from the start? The scurrying winger instantly gives Spain another attacking dimension when he comes off the bench. That said, Spain won the World Cup using Navas like that, so perhaps they know what they’re doing better than me.
PREDICTION: 0-0, but Spain keep plugging away and, after an error in central defence by France, steal it 1-0 after extra time.