Spain must learn key lessons before France game

Spain scraped past Germany in the quarter-final of the Euro 2024 but must take on some important lessons before they play France on Tuesday.

It took a 119th minute winner from Mikel Merino for Spain to crush German hearts and book their place in the semi-final. Despite Spain’s brilliance in the tournament so far, they were only seconds away from the game going to penalties, one of their clear weaknesses. By contrast, Germany haven’t lost a penalty shootout in 46 years and on home soil, you wouldn’t have bet against them.

Spain have probably been the best team at this tournament and they have constantly played high up the pitch, pressed, and looked threatening. To deal with their style of play, Germany employed the dark arts from kick off and the game was often stopped for free kicks. Spain were therefore unable to really get going. France will likely look to attempt a similar game-plan and try to stifle La Roja.

The French threat

France have been the enigma of this tournament. They have not yet scored a goal from open play but they have also conceded just one goal. They have kept an impressive four clean sheets from five games and have relied on a water-tight defence. It has worked so far. They have beaten Austria, Belgium and Portugal without ever getting out of second gear. And all the while, their threat remains unquestionable. If Kylian Mbappé decides to turn it on and display some magic, they will cause anyone a problem.

But their progress so far is down to their backline and in particular the solid duo of Dayot Upamecano and William Saliba. Coming into the tournament, Saliba was doubted by the French public and people largely would’ve preferred Didier Deschamps to go with Ibrahima Konaté. All of those doubts have been put to bed since the Arsenal defender has comfortably dealt with Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has had a seriously impressive campaign and is surely now one of the best centre-backs on the planet.

Spanish selection decisions

Spain must decide who starts up front in place of the suspended Alvaro Morata. The suspension may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as Morata really struggled against Germany. At times he looked on a completely different wavelength to Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams and the game just seemed too quick for him. Dani Olmo, one of his potential replacements for the next game, was by contrast absolutely superb and won the player of the match award.

De la Fuente may opt for Olmo or Ferran Torres ahead of Joselu, due to France’s defence being so good that conventional strikers have so far struggled to make any impact against them. The game against Germany was undoubtedly Spain’s toughest so far and they will face another difficult game against the French.

Japtej Ghura | GSFN

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