Spain v France, 19:45
It would be fair to say that ten years ago this game would have been pretty much reversed from what we’re expecting tonight, with France having all the baubles and Spain being a talented group without a win to their name yet, but times have changed now and it is Laurent Blanc’s French side that must prove themselves here. There has been something of a revolution across the pond, with the Lyon monopoly being broken by Lille, Montpellier and PSG developing in very different ways, and the national side it starting to see the benefits of some excellent player development.
Spain have had to deal with a fair bit more than the average side this summer, and their status as reigning World and European Champions made that pretty much inevitable, but that pressure that comes with winning is vastly preferable to the kind of heat Fabio Capello was subjected to for his highly-paid failure in England. The Spanish system hasn’t changed a huge amount over the last five years, but the loss of David Villa has precipitated a slightly more classical shape and a small amount of wide play, so they have the tools to mix it up if France flood the middle of the park.
It will be interesting to see how the French approach this game for me, as other teams, maybe the ones managed by people like Roy Hodgson would set up to contain the attacking threat of Spain and play on the break. The French, though, with their very-talented midfield and world-class striker may choose to go toe-to-toe with the best international side and prove to the world they are a serious outfit, ready to regain their place at the top of the game. This could end very badly for France, but I doubt Laurent Blanc would send his boys out like lambs to the slaughter.
The Spanish side looks set to stay the same, meaning there is still no place for Cesc Fabregas, who has scored two Euro 2012 goals. France will be without suspended centre-back Philippe Mexes, so Laurent Koscielny will deputise for him, and for me this makes their defence slightly stronger. Yohan Cabaye, Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery have all overcome knocks to be available. WilliamHill have 91/ on Benzema as first scorer, or an interesting 7/1 on there being no scorer, and if forced I suppose the Spanish have to be favourites tonight.