France eager to upset ‘favorites on paper’
Reigning football World and European champions Spain will be looking to beat France for the first time in a major tournament this Saturday night. The strong Iberian side are the clear cut favorites for the quarter-final clash in Donetsk.
The World and European champions have yet to beat Les Bleus either at the Euros or the World Cup. Their current record stands at three defeats and a single draw. However, head coach Vicente del Bosque is determined to break that duck.
"We are the favorites on paper, since we are the World and European champions. But there is also a record of France consistently beating Spain in competitive games. Every match can spring a surprise. So, we shall see whether we are able to go ahead, put our past behind us, and live the present to the full," he said.
So the French know they have a mountain to climb if they are to reach the semi-finals for the first time since their title-winning campaign back in 2000.
Laurent Blanc's men are still licking their wounds after a 2-0 defeat by Sweden in their final group game. That loss saw their unbeaten run of 23 matches come to an end, but France believes they can get back to their winning ways despite their underdog status against Spain.
The manner France lost to Ibrahimovic and Co led to some heated exchanges between players, and a meeting took place the following day involving the whole squad to smooth things over.
“Yes, it took some time for this to subside,” Blanc said Friday. “It held us back a bit, but there are priorities you have to deal with and they are more important than even the technical preparation for the match.”
Two years ago at the World Cup, France went home empty-handed, but now the players have a golden chance to set things straight by upsetting the tournament’s favorites.
“I'm not thinking about what I will say to motivate them. Honestly, for this match, I have nothing to say to them,” Blanc said. “They'll be playing against the best team in the world with the two or three best players in the world in each position. If they can't get motivated for that …”