Euro 2012: Previewing Spain vs. France and England vs. Italy

We previewed the first two quarterfinals of Euro 2012 yesterday, now we look at the last two. With four big-name football countries involved, these quarterfinals promise to be tenser than the first two, but filled with quality and excitement.

Spain vs. France

Can Fernando Torres produce in the clutch like he did at Euro 2008?










After the first two matches of the group stages, Spain and France both looked impressively on-form.

Spain battled back against a tough Italy side to draw in their first game, then dismantled a plucky but ultimately weak Ireland side four goals to nil. France, similarly, earned a respectable 1-1 draw with England, before securing an impressive two goals to nil victory over Ukraine, with goals coming from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye.

But both teams unexpectedly struggled in their final group stage matches. Spain only scored the winning goal in the 88th minute, and they had many calls go their way to keep Croatia off the scoresheet to that point. France fared even worse, losing 2-0 to a Sweden side that had nothing to play for but pride.

So where does that leave both teams?

Spain likely won’t be bothered too much by their struggles against Croatia. They know that their possession game is tried and tested, and that the onus is on them to be more clinical in future matches. Of course, a lot of the burden for goals will fall on Fernando Torres, whose form has been a bit hit-and-miss in this tournament, so, as has often the case in recent months, he’ll be one of the men to watch in this game.

As for France, there is already evidence that the loss to Sweden has shaken them up, with coach Laurent Blanc confirming that there was a bust-up in the French locker room after the game. The French players have moved quickly to downplay the incident, but there’s no denying that the loss to Sweden has shaken up the team and brought them down to earth after their great start to Euro 2012.

But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. As Florent Malouda said, if there was ever a good time for a winning streak to end, it’s a game that hurts them emotionally but doesn’t knock them out of Euro 2012. Now France will be motivated to prove their doubters wrong, and show that they are indeed good enough to go all the way in the competition.

Ultimately, it’ll be a very close match between two teams with something to prove, but I believe Spain will just barely edge a result. I’d take Karim Benzema over Fernando Torres personally, but Spain’s midfield is too talented and should be able to outplay France’s midfield. That’ll be the difference, and what takes Spain to the semifinals.

Prediction: Spain 2, France 1


England vs. Italy

It’s time for Wayne Rooney to really prove his worth for England at Euro 2012. Photograph: Henry Browne/Action Images










England have been one of the biggest surprises of Euro 2012. Many expected the English national team to struggle in the aftermath of the Fabio Capello fiasco, and especially in the absence of Wayne Rooney for their first two games, but England have been fairly resolute in defense and dangerous in their attack. They’ve not been perfect or without flaws, but they’ve done well, and emerged from Group D undefeated with two wins and a draw against France.

Italy have been impressive as well. They opened up their Euro 2012 campaign with an impressive draw vs. Spain, and though their draw against Croatia seemed to be a setback, they were able to put away Ireland 2-0 in their final group match. By no means did they ease their way to the knockout rounds, but they had their moments and proved their quality against some of the world’s most talented footballing nations.

For me, this is the hardest quarterfinal to call, because the two teams are very close to each other in quality. England have John Terry, who’s been great alongside Joleon Lescott for Italy, but Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are a fearsome centre-back duo as well. Steven Gerrard’s been in great form for England at Euro 2012, but Andrea Pirlo has been at his best all tournament long. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are two very good strikers, but Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli are of a very high-caliber as well. And the reserve strikers for both teams are capable of doing considerable damage off the bench.

I really don’t expect to see this game decided in regular time; I think both teams play conservatively and won’t be adventurous enough to win the game in regular time. I don’t expect this game to go to penalties either though; neither national team has a particularly good record at penalties. I think Wayne Rooney will show himself to be the best forward among all the strikers available for both teams, and either assist or score the winning goal for England.

Prediction: England 2, Italy 1 (a.e.t)


4 comments for “Euro 2012: Previewing Spain vs. France and England vs. Italy

  1. Daniel
    June 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    The loss of Philippe Mexes through yellow card accumulation is a big loss in the back line for France. With him out I think Spain will get at least a goal. Benzema is just to classy a striker to not a get a goal at some point and I think he is the best one Spain have seen in the tourney, and he exploits Pique and Ramos and get a goal. In the end I think this game well come down to who has the best game between Torres and Ribbery. I think Torres will have the better game and Spain move on.

    I agree with you that neither Italy or England will come looking to win the game, but just not lose it. I think it will dull and cagey affair that gets settled in 120 minutes. In a game that goes an extra 30 minutes the subs will have a big role in the outcome. While England has the dynamic Theo Walcott to come off the bench he is so hit and miss, with many more misses, Italy will have Balotelli or Antonio di Natale to come in with fresh legs late in the game. I think either one of them has more class and game winning ability then Walcott so I say Italy win 1-0 aet.

    • Mohamed Al-Hendy
      June 21, 2012 at 2:04 am

      The loss of Mexes is obviously unfortunate for France, but I’ve always rated Koscielny as the better CB so I think the injury could be a blessing in disguise for the team. I agree though that for France, it’ll come down to how Ribery performs, and he tends to underperform in the big moments for his country. You never know about Nasri though, he always seems to be one step from taking up the mantle as his country’s next great legend…

      It really could go either way with England vs. Italy, and Balotelli has proven himself dangerous so I would not be surprised.

  2. Surya Solanki
    June 21, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Nice read but I disagree with your prediction of Italy vs England game.
    Yes, it’s surely going to be damn boring game but I guess Italy with the likes of Pirlo and Cassano would get in a goal and when England would start chasing it, the game would become quite open. Yet, I expected Italy to prevail 2-1 or 1-0 itself.

    • Mohamed Al-Hendy
      June 21, 2012 at 2:05 am

      Fair enough, as I said it’ll be very close. It’ll likely come down to who has more depth, who shows up, and who can outlast the other. And as Daniel points out, Italy arguably boast the more impressive reserves, so that could be a big factor in deciding the winner of this matchup.

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