Saturday 23nd June
Kick Off: 7-45pm
Road to the Quarters:
France came out of the same group of England but didn't really live up to their pre-tournament as a "team to watch". For all their slick movement they failed to really threaten England despite having more possession, They brushed aside a poor Ukraine but then lost to Sweden when they needed to win to avoid this very game.
There were rumours of heated words apres the Sweden defeat which have now been confirmed by their manager. The spectre of the strike in South Africa two years ago hangs over the squad and few French pundits give their side a chance against the world champions.
Spain won their group as most would have expected and at times they pass the ball to death. At one point they are said to have made 90 consecutive passes against Ireland but there is the rub. It was Ireland. If you are playing a team as poor as Eire why do you need 90 passes to create a chance. The world champions lack of real fire power is such a worry that they even tried playing without a striker in their first game. It didn't work and Italy could count themselves slightly unlucky not to have won that one.
Ones to Watch:
Spain - Whoever plays up front, they need to find the missing spark and convert possession into goals
France - Alou Diarra, the holding midfielder will be key to breaking up the Spanish tippy-tappy
Spain 2/5 to qualify
France 15/8 to qualify
For all the praise lavished on Spain watching them can sometimes be, whisper it,a little boring. The opposition have to take a big slice of blame for this, often sticking 9 or 10 players behind the ball but Spain's patience, admirable and game winning though it is, doesn't always make for the best viewing for the neutral. So expect a tight game but with the expected result:
1 - 0 to the Champions