Throughout this tournament, Spain haven’t got the credit they deserve. I know in theory at one point in the final group game they were only one goal from going out, but I like how they performed. They’re a victim of their own success because every team they come up against defend very deep. For all their passing and movement, sometimes it’s just hard to break down, but they have found a way most of the time.
France have the potential to be tricky opponents, but I can’t see them sitting back and playing the type of game they need to smother Spain. They like to attack and probably won’t play as deep as some of the other teams we’ve seen against Spain.
Apart from the Ireland match, Spain don’t score a lot of goals. That’s the price you pay for using six midfielders and no out and out striker. They’ve tried using Fabregas in the – to invent a new position – ‘behind the invisible front man’ role, but they look better when they’ve played Torres. I know Cesc scored a lovely goal against Ireland, but I’d go with Torres.
His movement alone creates space for others, so even if he doesn’t get a goal, he’s still doing some good work for the team. If you don’t have a striker on the shoulder of a defender, it can make the pitch very compact for the midfield, so I’d like to see more of Torres. We’re at the point in the tournament when you need to go for it and Torres makes Spain a more threatening team.
The concern as ever is the Spanish defence. They have given up some great chances already in this tournament. Karim Benzema hasn’t scored yet and that’s because he’s playing too far away from goal. As a forward, you should be getting most of your chances in and around the penalty area and at the moment, he looks like he wants to score the spectacular goals. I know the feeling. Sometimes in games you’re being marked very tightly and your instinct is to go looking for the ball. But you’re almost always better being a bit selfless and sacrificing your own personal performance for the team. He needs to stop dropping back into midfield, stay higher up the pitch and give the Spanish defence a problem.
I can’t see past Spain in this one. Ireland aside, they’re not scoring a whole lot of goals, but they’re doing enough. I also liked France coming into the tournament, but I didn’t expect to meet Spain so early on. Spain will win this by the odd goal, either 1-0 or 2-1.