Prevailing logic says that France’s loss to Sweden and their ensuing internal arguments will result in the usual result – France getting summarily eliminated from a major tournament. Normally I’d subscribe to that notion. However, Spain hasn’t been special and France made lineup changes that didn’t work out, so look for Blance to go back to a more familiar lineup when the game kicks off tomorrow. Spain should be slightly favored but a French upset, while not probable, would be only a mild surprise. Spain be hoping this match doesn’t go to extra time – that will hurt them against the well rested Portugese. France will be hoping for penalties.
Why France will win
- Menez and Cabaye will re-enter the lineup replacing Ben Arfa and possibly M’Vila or Diarra. That will provide more offense for France, especially from Menez who was very lively against Ukraine in the group stage. If he has a good game, it will force Jordi Alba to stay back and help even out the imbalance in midfield that any team playing Spain has to face.
- Ribery will dominate Arbeloa. Puyol’s absence has moved Ramos to central defense from the right back slot and his replacement, Alvaro Arbeloa, is competent but slow. Ribery has to have a big game for France to have a chance and he is likely to enjoy going against Arbeloa. Just like Menez, if Ribery has a good game, it will force Silva to drop back to help on defense, thus evening numbers in midfield.
- Benzema has assisted on the majority of the French goals, but has yet to get on the scoresheet. It bodes well for France as he goes against a familiar defense in his club teammates Arbeloa, Ramos and Casillas. The Benz is due.
- Spain is not the usual Spain. Puyol and Villa’s absence has hurt them at critical positions and Xavi is not playing at his normal high level. Everything is just a little off for the Spaniards and there is unease about how well Ramos and Pique will perform together in the middle if they are put under real pressure. Their dislike of each other is common knowledge and the last thing Spain needs at the knockout stage.
Why Spain will win
- France’s undefeated run is over, there is infighting and neither Ribery nor Benzema have scored at Euro 2012. That is a not a great recipe for success at this stage. Spain is seasoned, used to winning and the manner in which they ground out their World Cup win will help them as they get to the business end of this tournament.
- Mexes is suspended which probably means that Koscielny gets the start. While Mexes didn’t cover himself with glory against Sweden, and Koscielny does have more pace and has played well against Messi and Barcelona the last few times they have met in the Champions League, starting at center back in a tournament for the first time in a quarterfinal match against the defending World and European champions is a daunting task for Koscielny. He is prone to making errors and there is a high likelihood that happens again today.
- Spain’s midfield domination will result in France struggling to score. Cabaye or M’Vila have to have huge games in order for Nasri, Ribery, Benzema and Menez to get enough touches to score. That will be tough. Add in the fact that France doesn’t really have aerial threats to score off of dead balls and it just means they will have to have a lot of luck to beat Spain.
- Iniesta. And Cesc. Iniesta has been in great form and Debuchy will struggle to stay with him. Cesc continues to do what he has done so well for Barcelona this past season – score off of well timed late runs into space behind the defense. That should be enough to Spain to win this match.
Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 France 0
Spain will score a goal in the second half and hold France off. Iniesta or Cesc to score for Spain.
Ukraine is not going to surprise France. Shevchenko is not going to surprise Mexes. Yarmolenko is not going to surprise Evra. Blokhin is not going to surprise Blanc. France hasn’t lost in 22 games. This will not be the first loss. I also don’t believe they can be comfortable with a draw as that would put too much pressure on their last game against Sweden.
This is going to be a more open game and France will have more space than they did against England. I respect Ukraine’s front three and Tymoshchuk did a great job in the holding midfield position. However, Ribery and Nasri will be too much for the Ukrainian defense. I would like to see Blanc be more aggressive and putting Ben Arfa in the starting lineup.
Pre-match prediction: Ukraine 1 France 2
Benzema and Ribery will score for France and Yarmolenko to reduce the margin for Ukraine.
No Lampard, no Beckham and no Zidane. Will this matchup live up to the one in Euro 2004 when Lampard scored first, Becks missed a penalty that would have put the match beyond doubt and then England were defeated courtesy of a late double by Zidane? I doubt it. France comes into the tournament on a long unbeaten streak, but they haven’t hit the heights in the lead in to Euro 2012 and England seems incapable of scoring more than one goal in any match with the lineup and tactics Hodgson is employing.
Why England will win
- Hodgson has instilled his traditional game plan of being solid defensively with two banks of four and speed utilized to break on the counter and grab a goal against the run of play. It’s pragmatic and he certainly has the speed in the lineup.
- England’s injuries, new coach and absence of talismanic Rooney has reduced expectations and the accompanying pressure that has seemed to paralyze past England squads. Not much is expected of this England squad and that could be the key to unlocking the potential of the squad – with a lot of luck.
- England finally has a top goalkeeper in Joe Hart. It’s been ten years since David Seaman played in goal (and if you don’t consider him a top keeper, you have to go back to 1983 for Ray Clemence). Since then the “Golden Generation” has had to play with the likes of Scott Carson, Rob Green, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Paul Robinson, David James and Richard Wright in goal.
- They have game changers in the speedy Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If Welbeck is fit, his partnership with Young will be dangerous.
- Group stage games aren’t decided on penalties.
Why France will win
- England’s injuries mean that there is no real continuity in defense. It is tough to play a coordinated defensive strategy that Hodgson’s system requires when you haven’t had enough time to familiarize yourself with it given Roy’s recent hiring and you have had to change the central defenders following Rio’s withdrawal and Cahill’s injury.
- Rooney is not playing, Welbeck is just returning from an ankle injury and Defoe has just suffered a personal tragedy. England has no depth to spare at the moment.
- France has game changers across the park in Ribery, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa and Giroud.
- Blanc is a great coach and has the team mindful of their duty to perform at a higher level after their disastrous outing at the World Cup. They are solid defensively, have a long unbeaten streak and the only question mark is the potential absence of Yann M’Vila.
Pre-match prediction: France 1 England 1
I wonder if England can score in this match. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only way they get one is on a dead ball. Ashely Young delivers great corners and free kicks. Terry or Lescott to score for England and Benzema to get one for France. A draw would be a great result for England who can get through as long as they don’t lose this match.
This looks like a scoring draw. Anelka gets one for France and Suarez or Forlan pulls one back for Uruguay.
France 1 Uruguay 1
I don’t understand how a team with Ribery and Gourcuff is not getting it done. Lloris is a great goalie. They have experience. Strange. I guess coaching does impact the outcome. This team would get to the semis if Blanc had been in charge.