We have two matches down, and two more to go. Germany and Portugal have already punched their tickets to the semi-finals, as I correctly predicted before the tournament started. Now we have the defending champions Spain, who notched seven points en route to winning their group, while France settled for four points and a runner up finish in Group D. Despite the big names on the field, Spain is the clear favorite. Now they will face off for a shot in the semi-finals. Let’s take a closer look at the matcup.
How France can Win: France is fresh off a disappointing loss to Sweden, in a game where they could have avoided these juggernauts for one more round. Every team is happy to get past the group stage, but you never want to back into that position. And that’s what France did. They have the experience and the talent to advance. You have to look at their top two players in the midfield: Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery. Both these guys have recent big game experience. Nasri came out on top with Manchester City as they won the Premiership. Meanwhile, Ribery is coming off a tough loss to Chelsea in the League Cup final, and is looking to bounce back. The problem is: France is a defensive team. Often times, its better to face another defensive team. Spain is diverse, but their bread and butter is to outscore you. They did that with a 4-1 thrashing Ireland. France has to contain Spain to one goal to even have a shot. I can’t see France scoring three goals, so it will have to be an ugly game. They’ve done it before(2006 World Cup vs Brazil).
How Spain Can Win: Don’t look now, but Fernando Torres might have snapped out of his funk. Torres has often been maligned for coming up short on the big national stage, but he busted out with two goals against Ireland. Now, having said that, France is a much bigger challenge then Ireland. And he will have much more challenging defenses as the tournament goes on. This team is just so loaded, and their goalkeeper Iker Casillas is known for absolutely shutting down sub par offenses like France. A guys like David Silva will need to bring some veteran experience to this squad, and he can easily toe the line between offense and defense for the team.
Our prediction: There hasn’t been a ton of upsets so in this tournament. Greece beating Russia was considered a huge upset, but we’re looking for an upset like this. This game could go one of two ways, as it often does with France. They could keep it close, and maybe pull off a huge upset, shut Spain down, and grind out a 1-0 win. Or, they could melt on the big stage again, and Spain could spank them 4-0. My guess? France keeps this game closer then it should be. I think it will be ugly. Maybe 0-0 after 90, or 1-1 at best, with Spain winning in extra time or free kicks.