Spain v France, 19:45
As loudly as the French management protest that it is entirely normal for a squad to fight within itself, especially after a loss, the evidence would seem to suggest that this is not true of all squads, and the Spanish have spoken in the past about their own problems in overcoming the Real v Barca rivalry in their midst. Now they have done this, their football is all the more fluid and spectacular for the mutual appreciation of skill they have the vast majority of the time.
It is hard to judge much about this Spain line-up from the group games, as the draw with Italy seemed almost to be accepted as a necessary evil given that the last two matches seemed to be fairly straightforward. As a result this game is possibly the first real test for the World and European Champions, and it seems likely that the 4-6-0 formation adopted in the Italy game is gone for good, with a striker in place and more of a threat in behind the opposition.
France started out with a lot resting on the shoulders of their main man up front, Karim Benzema, and the Real Madrid forward is yet to excite the fans in the way they were hoping. There is a similar level of quality throughout the French squad as in the Spanish, and Laurent Blanc’s side do have a very good shot at turning over a team not currently playing their absolute best, but it will require les blues to focus much more sharply than they did against England, let alone Sweden.
Spanish boss Vicente Del Bosque again looks set to start two-goal Fernando Torres in an unchanged side, which will mean two-goal midfielder Cesc Fabregas on the substitutes bench once more. France will miss Philippe Mexes through suspension, so Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny will deputise for him. Yohan Cabaye, Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery are all expected to be fit for the game after overcoming minor niggles.
Spain are 17/20 (Paddy Power) while France are 17/4 (Victor Chandler) to win the game, which gives you an idea of the size of the task ahead of the French tonight. Fabregas could come off the bench if it is 0-0, and he is 8/1 with Boylesports as first goalscorer in what would probably be a 1-0 Spain win, best priced 11/2 with Ladbrokes.