A weak stomach on your wedding day. The sun shines with unbridled warmth the week of your leaving certificate. Discontent in the French Football squad at a major tournament. There is just an inevitability to some things in life.
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Embittered at being substituted by French Manager Laurent Blanc in the lacklustre 2-0 defeat to Sweden in France’s final Group D match, Hatem Ben Arfa is reported to have combined sulking and talking on his mobile phone during the post match team talk.
Inevitably a frustrated Blanc intervened, later admitting that things had “kicked off a bit.”
This led to Ben Arfa challenging him to send him home. All is apparently calm now but how eyes must have rolled for those in the squad who saw it all two years ago in South Africa. But of paramount interest is what French team will show up now, the disjointed 11 that lost to Sweden or the cohesive unit who beat a decent Ukraine side.
In the build up to Euro 2012 France Footballs Patrick Dessault said about the French squad; “at least we know that they’re not the bunch of dunces we thought they were a few months ago.” Lets hope not. A split now off and on the pitch would be disastrous.
Any lack of cohesion will be truly exposed by a Spanish team who have shown an ability to exploit any weakness even vaguely apparent. No real injury concerns and no suspensions should see a rejuvenated Fernando Torres lead the line supported by a midfield of some of the most proficient engineers of passing in the European game -David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and the excelling Andres Iniesta.
If France are to look for a weakness their best chance might be at left back where if Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema pressure and wrong foot Alvaro Arbeloa they might be able to open a canal of possibility.
With Philippe Mexes suspended the internationally inexperienced Laurent Koscieny will replace him at centre back. Whilst he experienced a solid season with Arsenal the hope is that on his first competitive start for France he will quickly develop an understanding with Adil Rami. If not the French team could be in for an uncomfortable night.
It is the fluidity of movement that should be key to Spain eventually picking apart the French. Not only that but the movement without possession of the Spaniards could force the French into errors to concede possession and space.
However the French have the personnel to create space and therefore chances of their own. An early cohesive movement or two could spring them to life and instil a belief in their own direct, attacking game.
Spain should win. But there’s always at least one performance in a tournament of this ilk that turns logic on its head. Realistically it’s unlikely to be the French tomorrow night in Donetsk. But when have the French ever been a predictable breed.
Prediction: Spain 2- 1 France