/ Euro 2012

Preview of Spain v France quarter-final

Updated: Saturday, 23 Jun 2012 14:23 | Comments

France defeated Spain at the last 16 stage of the 2006 World Cup
France defeated Spain at the last 16 stage of the 2006 World Cup

France coach Laurent Blanc has hailed the impact of Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye, while Spain are looking to change the trend of competitive losses against Les Blues ahead of their Euro 2012 quarter-final in Donetsk.

Blanc has had to field countless questions about the dressing room row which erupted among several players after the 2-0 defeat by Sweden in Kiev on Tuesday. But a big plus will be the return of Cabaye, who was rested against the Swedes after impressing in the 1-1 draw with England and 2-0 victory over Ukraine.

Blanc said: "Cabaye is indispensable in terms of how he played in the first two games in the competition, absolutely.

"We know players like Cabaye bring a lot to the team. You realise how much players like that bring when they are not actually there.

"He has such great technical ability which really helps the side, gives us a bit more assurance, because we can keep the ball and move it about.

"He has been an important player for a while now - both with his club and the national side."

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny is poised to replace the suspended Philippe Mexes, with Blanc confident the 26-year-old will be up to the task.

He said: "It is a big chance for him. When a player doesn't play, you are always disappointed and I know the feeling from my own experiences.

"But we have only three central defenders and I always said that if we got through the group that Laurent would have a role to play.

"It is a chance for him. He will be very well prepared, was very close to getting into the starting XI, and now that will happen."

Blanc admitted the dressing room row which followed the defeat by Sweden had delayed preparations for the meeting with the World Cup holders and Euro 2008 winners.

He said: "There is no conflict. There were words exchanged after the game. There was a reaction. Some players were very angry. That is true.

"Certain things were said, we acted on those. People are worked up and angry after a defeat and there were raised voices.

"We took a bit of time to calm everyone down and coming back to Donetsk from Kiev to our base camp allowed us to do that and be a bit more at peace.

"It did delay us in terms of when we could start preparing for the game with Spain but you have priorities that have to be dealt with.

"But since Wednesday everything has been about working towards the game with Spain."

Apart from Mexes, Blanc has a full squad to choose from, with Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery shaking off knocks suffered against the Swedes.

Vicente del Bosque meanwhile has challenged Spain to "change history".

France have never lost to Spain in a competitive fixture and were the last team to eliminate them from a major tournament at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Del Bosque, though, intends to set the record straight at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

"Everyone thinks we are favourites because we won the Euros four years ago and the World Cup two years ago, but there is evidence that France are better in competitive matches," he said.

"But we have to think about the present and not the past. We all have to see tonight if we can change history."

Del Bosque added: "France have players who can take the initiative and I do not see them really defending all the time and waiting for us to do something.

"The French coach is a good coach with good players at his disposal, so the match they lost with Sweden does not really tell us much. If we have a good moment, we can beat them."

Del Bosque accepts the strength of his squad will mean there is always debate over who should start.

The world champions were hardly convincing as they eked out a 1-0 victory over Croatia to win Group C with seven points from their three games, having opened with a draw against Italy.

The former Real Madrid boss, who again played without a natural striker once Fernando Torres had been withdrawn with half an hour remaining, indicated no firm decision had been made on how to line up against Les Bleus.

"We are modest, but still optimistic," he told a press conference. "France are difficult opponents and also we have some doubts about the starting line-up, but that is a healthy thing.

"We are not absolutely right, and we will just try our best."

Del Bosque continued: "I haven't decided on my team yet. We have great players who can play up front.

"I have always had 23 great players who are important for their clubs, and I can't use all of them.

"It would be bad not to have any selection doubts. We have stable form and a stable team, and alternatives for every position."

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