Defending champions Spain face France on Saturday in the third of the Euro 2012 quarter-final ties.
Betfred are giving Bettingpro readers a £50 free bet on Spain v France
Vicente del Bosque’s men have not quite hit the heights that many expected of them and that is reflected in the betting, as they have now slipped to second favouritism for the tournament outright, priced at 5/2 behind 2/1 market leaders Germany.
Despite their relative troubles against Italy and Croatia it is worth noting that La Roja still qualified as Group C winners, while France had to settle for a runners-up berth in Group D in what looked an easier task on paper.
Spain are not expected to slip up in Donetsk as they are priced as the 4/5 favourites in the match betting, with the draw on offer at 5/2 while Les Bleus can be backed at 4/1 to cause a shock.
Forgetting the Republic of Ireland clash, Del Bosque’s side struggled to a 1-1 draw in their opener against Italy, while Croatia missed two golden chances to open the scoring before Jesus Navas popped up with a late winner.
Laurent Blanc’s team had started the tournament in reasonable fashion, enjoying the better of a 1-1 draw against England before easing past co-hosts Ukraine 2-0.
However, their dismal failure against already-eliminated Sweden in the last group game has perhaps dampened the spirits, particularly given the news of a dressing-room spat which brought back memories of the problems suffered at the World Cup in 2010.
At 4/1 though, France cannot be ruled out of the reckoning – providing the players have put the fallout from the Sweden defeat behind them – as they have never lost to Spain in a competitive fixture.
Les Bleus triumphed in the final of the European Championships in 1984, won again in the quarter-finals in 2000, while they were the last team to eliminate Spain from a major tournament when they triumphed 3-1 in the first knockout stage at the 2006 World Cup.
La Roja have of course gone on to win Euro 2008 and the World Cup since that defeat and have lost just one game in the process – 1-0 against Switzerland in South Africa.
Spain have won 36 of 38 competitive games since that French loss and will undoubtedly be hard to beat, although there appears to be one or two question marks over the current team.
Del Bosque started the tournament with a ‘false nine’ in Cesc Fabregas against Italy and, although he has two goals to his name, Fernando Torres has started the last two games.
Right-back Alvaro Arbeloa has come in for some criticism from the Spanish media with calls for Juanfran to start against France, who have the dangerous Franck Ribery operating down the left-hand side.
Laurent Blanc has his own issues to sort out, with Karim Benzema a constant threat in La Liga last season but yet to hit the target at Euro 2012.
Philippe Mexes is definitely ruled out through suspension meaning the France boss has to alter his defensive plan, although he is boosted by the news Samir Nasri has been passed fit to play.
Spain have won three of the last four encounters between the two, albeit in friendlies, and may find a little more space against the French, who were critical of England’s defensive tactics against them in the opening round of fixtures.
By the same token, the French forwards may find a little more space themselves and can cause the champions’ back four problems, which certainly sets up an intriguing contest.
Added to the mix is the possibility of the teams’ trying to win a psychological edge ahead of the World Cup qualifiers as they have been drawn together in Group I.
Spain are understandable favourites but history is on the side of the French and they look the value at 4/1 to score a shock, in a game that looks to have a good potential for goals (Over 2.5 Goals – 6/4).