Preview: France vs Spain, 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Tuesday evening sees the two leviathans of European football go head-to-head in an all-important 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier.
France and Spain will kick off at the Stade de France in Paris on Tuesday evening, which could well decide which team wins Group Nine of UEFA qualification for Brazil 2014 and which team is handed a play-off berth.
Despite the game being held in France, Spain will likely be the more favoured side. That being said, the Spaniards’ 2-0 defeat of the French at Euro 2012 was their first and only win against France in a competitive game.
22/03/2013: Georgia, 3-1 (H), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
06/02/2013: Germany, 1-2 (H), International Friendly
14/11/2012: Italy, 2-1 (A), International Friendly
16/10/2012: Spain, 1-1 (A), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
12/10/2012: Japan, 0-1 (H), International Friendly
11/09/2012: Belarus, 3-1 (H), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
The French have lost two of their last six games, and while that will bother new coach Didier Deschamps, they will matter little in the long run, as both those games were international friendlies. What will give the 1998 World Cup winner food for thought is that both the 2-1 loss against Germany and the 1-0 upset by the Japanese were at home.
Deschamps can take heart, however, from the efficient manner in which they have seen off all opposition in qualification this time. Currently atop Group Nine with ten points from four games, that Euro 2012 game aside, the Spanish are yet to beat the French in a competitive fixture.
France drew 1-1 with Spain in the calendar’s previous corresponding fixture. Despite the flurry of chances created by the Spaniards, including a Cesc Fabregas penalty that was saved by Hugo Lloris, Olivier Giroud struck in the dying seconds of the game to cancel out Sergio Ramos’ opener.
But the French have lost their last two friendly meetings with La Furia Roja. The Red Fury won 1-0 in Spain in 2008 before beating Les Bleus 2-0 in Paris in 2010.
Nevertheless, Deschamps can take heart from some of France’s most memorable performances as he looks to spur France one. Deschamps himself was part of a 2-1 win at Euro 2000, where Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff sandwiched Gaizka Mendieta’s penalty.
More famously, an ageing French squad orchestrated a come-from-behind 3-1 win at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. After David Villa had scored from the spot, Franck Ribery, Patrick Vieira and Zidane found the back of the net to successfully clear the Round of 16.
22/03/2013: Finland, 1-1 (H), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
06/02/2013: Uruguay, 3-1 (H), International Friendly
14/11/2012: Panama, 1-5 (A), International Friendly
16/10/2012: France, 1-1 (H), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
12/10/2012: Belarus, 4-0 (A), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
11/09/2012: Georgia, 1-0 (A), 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Given their international pedigree, the unbeaten streak Spain are on should come as no surprise. What is a little surprising is that despite having a multitude of chances against both France and Finland, both teams managed to hold them to 1-1 draws in Spain.
The problem Vincente del Bosque therefore has is not one of a physical nature, but of a slight change in attitude.
That being said, Spain recently put aside their tag of never having beaten France in international competitions when they beat Les Bleus 2-0 in the quarter-finals of the 2012 European Championships last summer en route to claiming their third successive international trophy.
On Xabi Alonso’s one hundredth game for his country, he scored twice – one from the penalty spot – to dispose of Laurent Blanc’s France.
Del Bosque will be looking to use that as a reference point when Spain walk out onto the pitch, where the greatest achievement in French football history took place in 1998.
Several key players have been left out by Deschamps, while others have been pencilled in for their country’s games against Georgia and Spain.
Midfielders Etienne Capoue and Abou Diaby are both out of the squad. Toulouse midfielder Capoue has apparently been off-form lately, while Diaby lacks match fitness. That being said, despite a lack of playing time, the Paris Saint-Germain duo of Mamadou Sakho and Jeremy Menez have both made it into the squad.
Arsenal man Bacary Sagna has also been excluded.
Goalkeepers: Mickaël Landreau (SC Bastia), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Gaël Clichy (Manchester City), Rod Fanni (Marseille), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Christophe Jallet (PSG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Mamadou Sakho (PSG), Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Newcastle)
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Maxime Gonalons (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Dimitri Payet (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
Attackers: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Jérémy Ménez (PSG), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Loïc Rémy (Queens Park Rangers)
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Lloris; Jallet, Sakho, Varane, Clichy; Gonalons, Matuidi, Ribery, Valbuena; Benzema, Giroud
Despite only drawing 1-1 with the Finns, coach Vincente Del Bosque has said that he will not risk his key midfield duo of Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso, both of whom sat out the game with injury concerns. The former Real Madrid boss has said that the final decision to play will rest with the players.
As expected, there is no place in the squad for misfiring Chelsea striker Fernando Torres. However, Swansea forward Miguel Michu has still not received his international call-up.
But veterans Carles Puyol and Iker Casillas are both out. Neither has been called up to the squad on account of their injury woes. Victor Valdes started in goal against Finland. Jose Reina is in the wings as is uncapped Manchester United man David de Gea.
Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Javi Garcia (Man City), Isco (Malaga)
Forwards: David Villa (Barcelona), David Silva (Man City), Pedro (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Valdes; Azpilicueta, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Fabregas, Iniesta; Isco, Silva, Villa
France: Franck Ribery
Having spent a majority of his French career being booed by his own fans, Ribery is now one of France’s go-to guys, scoring goals when they matter the most.
Having found the back of the net against Georgia, the Bayern Munich man is sure to test the Spanish rearguard tomorrow.
Spain: David Villa
If Spain need to win, they need to score goals. David Villa aside, there are not a lot of proven goalscorers in the Spanish squad.
With excellent predatory instincts and a sharp eye for goal, Spain will need to feed the Barcelona striker if they are to win tomorrow’s game.
Both sides are blessed with quality, but seem to be a worthy match for each other. To win, France need to stop Spain from playing their natural game. To win, Spain need to play their natural game. A draw looks most likely on the cards.
France 1-1 Spain