DONETSK (Reuters) - France cannot expect to dominate possession in their Euro 2012 quarter-final against Spain on Saturday but with Yohan Cabaye back in the starting line-up they should make the most of what they do get.
Having diffused dressing-room tensions after losing 2-0 to Sweden in their final group game, Les Bleus set their sights firmly on the world and European champions.
“We discussed this (the tensions) with the players involved deep into the night after the game,” coach Laurent Blanc told a news conference on Friday.
“It was important to disperse the bad vibes. It has been done intelligently,” said captain Hugo Lloris.
“But two days after the game, we were preparing the game against Spain,” Blanc added.
France will have to adapt to their opponents instead of playing their own game even though Spain have never beaten Les Bleus in six competitive matches.
“At least there is one stat in our favor. But things have changed for us and for Spain,” said Blanc.
“Let’s hope that it remains in our favor for two or three more days.”
Blanc will rely on Cabaye whose neat passing was missed when he was rested for the Sweden game.
“It is when they are not playing that you realize how these players are important,” the coach said.
“His technical qualities really help the team.”
Cabaye brings attacking flair to France’s game while Yann Mvila has a more defensive role.
Mvila, however, is likely to start again with Alou Diarra and Cabaye in midfield and France know they will be forced to defend for long periods.
“Nobody has invented a strategy to deny Spain. When do you have to adapt to your opponent’s game? When they have the ball and with Spain, it’s roughly 65, 70 per cent of the time,” Blanc said.
“What you have to do is make the most of the remaining third to develop your own football.”
That is where Cabaye steps in, with quick passes towards the front line, where Karim Benzema will look to score his first goal of the tournament.
“It is not all about Karim Benzema. We have to understand that. We saw that in the previous game, Sweden were just better as a team,” said Blanc who also has defensive worries.
Philippe Mexes will miss the game through suspension and will be replaced by Laurent Koscielny, who only has three caps.
“He will be out to prove that he is not there by accident,” said Lloris and Blanc agreed.
“He was actually very close to making it to the starting central defense. We knew that by taking only three centre backs to the competition he would be likely to play at some point,” the coach said.
Editing by Ed Osmond