Upstart Spain confront seasoned France for spot in Euros final

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Luis de la Fuente's Spain are the form team of Euro 2024 but face tournament specialists France in Tuesday's semi-final in Munich.

1 week ago
Spain have lit up Euro 2024, winning all five games while scoring 11 goals and are just one win away from the final. To get there however, Spain will need to go through a France side who while not impressing in Germany have shown their expertise and experience at major tournaments to navigate their way to the final four.
France have only scored three goals at Euro 2024, none of which have come from general play. Misfiring captain Kylian Mbappe, playing in a specialised mask due to a broken nose sustained in the opening fixture against Austria, has scored from the spot once, while the French have benefited from two own goals.
Led by coach Didier Deschamps however, France have shown the necessary nous and guile to go within one game of their fourth final in the last five major tournaments.
With a 25-year-old captain and one of the youngest squads at Euro 2024, it is easy to overlook how the French have established themselves as the dominant force in European football over the past decade.
Since a quarter-final defeat by eventual champions Germany at the 2014 World Cup, France have made the final at every major tournament other than Euro 2020.
That run includes a World Cup triumph in 2018 and a loss on penalties to Argentina in Qatar four years later, along with an extra-time defeat by Portugal at Euro 2016 on home soil.
The importance of France's experience at major tournaments has been clear in Germany. Despite a run to the semis, the French have failed to impress. France are yet to score from general play, with only an Mbappe penalty and two own goals in the plus column.
That 1-0 loss to Germany, just over 10 years ago, was their last defeat in regulation time at a major competition. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot said France had full faith even if they are yet to light the tournament on fire.
"We've always talked about it being a team game, needing a team effort. It's the case for all recent competitions we've played in and is the case at this Euros. Even if we've had difficulties, we're in the semi-finals."
A self-described pragmatist, coach Deschamps said Monday results are what matters at major tournaments. "Maybe it's not the same as it was in the past, but we do have the capability to spark emotions and make lots of French men and women happy with our results."
De la Fuente shot down suggestions France were boring, but said Spain's game plan "is closer to a nice show, a nice spectacle, if we do it right. "In that respect, we're a nice team to watch."
Spain have scored 11 goals through eight different goalscorers, posing threats across the park. The Spain coach echoed his counterpart's statements, even if he admitted "at this stage, it's about winning.
"France have a fantastic team. I enjoy watching football. I have fun watching football and it's fun to watch the French."
But with Pedri out of the tournament with injury and Spain missing defenders Dani Carvajal and Robin Le Normand due to yellow card suspensions, France may sense an opportunity.
Coming in for Carvajal is right back Jesus Navas. At 38, Navas is older than the combined age of wingers Nico Williams, 21, and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal.
The Sevilla winger does however boast experience as the last remaining member of Spain's golden generation, who won two Euros titles either side of a World Cup from 2008 to 2012.
If Spain are to win on Tuesday and book their spot in Sunday's final, Navas may enjoy the rare honour of being part of the start of another golden generation of Spanish football.

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