Spain must beat France in a competitive match for the first time if they are to reach the Euro 2012 semi-finals and the latest French squabbling can only have boosted their chances of finally vanquishing Les Bleus in a major tournament.
The off-pitch quarrels among the French players led to an ignominious early exit from the 2010 World Cup and officials and players have admitted that fur was flying again after Tuesday’s 2-0 Group D loss to Sweden.
Cup holders Spain, by contrast, have presented a typically upbeat and united front ahead of the quarter-final in Donetsk, the winners of which will meet Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the last four.
Of the six tournament meetings between the two teams, the French have won five, including a 2-1 quarter-final victory at Euro 2000 when Spain’s Raul missed a late penalty and a 3-1 success in a last-16 clash at the 2006 World Cup.
Raul’s successor at center forward, Fernando Torres, believes his team learned a lesson from the World Cup reverse that helped turn them into world champions and said it was high time Spain ended their poor run against the French.
As well as Torres, goalkeepers Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina, midfielders Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta and defender Sergio Ramos all survive from the squad for the France match in Hanover six years ago.
“We hope that this time our experience will tip the balance in favor of Spain,” Torres said on his Web site on Thursday.
While Spain have a full squad available, France coach Laurent Blanc will have to do without the suspended Philippe Mexes and the inexperienced Laurent Koscielny will pair up with Adil Rami in central defense.
Blanc is expected to field Yohan Cabaye again in the midfield with Alou Diarra and Yann Mvila, with Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery playing with Jeremy Menez up front and Samir Nasri on the bench, at least at the start.