Do France have any hope against Spain tonight?

Matthew Riding
Karim Benzema 300x225 Do France have any hope against Spain tonight?

Karim Benzema trains with France ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Spain

Tonight, France come up against arguably the greatest international team of all time.

Didier Deschamps’s men travel to Madrid to face Euro 2012 winners, Spain, in a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier.

The Spaniards, managed by Vicente Del Bosque, are the tournament’s defending champions after lifting the trophy two years ago in South Africa, and having started this World Cup qualifying campaign with away wins against Georgia and Belarus, they look in no mood to surrender their title.

The world’s number one ranked side are unbeaten in competitive football since June 2010 and have won the last three meetings against France, including a 2-0 victory in the quarter-final of Euro 2012 in the summer.

So do France have any hope of getting a result this evening in the Spanish capital?

Since the defeat against tonight’s opponents at the European Championships four months ago in Donetsk, the French national team has been overhauled.

After the disappointment of only reaching the last eight in Poland and Ukraine, manager Laurent Blanc swiftly departed, and Les Bleus were a team in need of a lift.

In came Deschamps, along with an abundance of new faces.

In the 1-0 defeat to Japan in a friendly four days ago, only six of that starting line-up featured in the quarter-final against Spain back in June.

Manchester City’s Samir Nasri is still in exile after failing to make the squad, with Deschamps declaring it is not yet “the right time” for the former Marseille man to return to the international set-up after completing a three-match ban for verbally abusing reporters after his team’s Euro 2012 quarter-final exit.

Midfielders Yann M’Vila and Florent Malouda are out of favour, with Deschamps preferring the youthful exuberance of Toulouse duo Etienne Capoue and Moussa Sissoko.

Capoue and Sissoko will have to shackle the likes of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Xavi if France are to have any hopes of leaving Madrid with a positive result.

Is it a gamble too far by Deschamps to favour youth over experience?

The last time the two sides met, at the Euros, France had only 40 per cent possession and registered one shot on target. Malouda and co were simply outclassed by the relentless artistry of Spain’s efficient passing game. Les Bleus couldn’t get near their opponents, and despite coming into the tournament on a 20-match undefeated run, they looked a beaten side from the off and never really competed with the wizardry of Spain’s midfield quartet.

So what do France and Deschamps have to lose? It makes perfect sense to go to Spain with a fresh approach. Going with experience has failed in the past, so why not give the new guard a go?

One man who France will need to dazzle in the heat of the Vincente Calderon stadium is Karim Benzema.

The 24-year-old striker has not scored in his last eight international matches, but the responsibility of leading the attack in Spain might be the responsibility that brings the former Lyon man back into form.

Benzema will be supported on the wings by PSG’s Jeremy Menez and playmaker Franck Ribery, and with Patrice Evra and Mathieu Debuchy roaming forward from the back, the supply to the 6ft forward should be a healthy one.

With Spain on a 47-match unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers and France arriving in Madrid off the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Japan, you could be forgiven for thinking the outcome of tonight’s game is an obvious one, but as we witnessed in Ligue 1 last season when the unfancied Montpellier won the title under the noses of PSG, anything is possible.

Did You Know?

- France’s last match at the Vicente Calderon stadium was at the 1982 World Cup, when they beat Northern Ireland 4-2.

- Spain are unbeaten in their nine previous matches at the Vicente Calderon stadium and have not lost an international match on home soil since 2003.

- In the Euro 2012 quarter0final tie, Benzema’s 40 touches only surpassed that of Iker Casillas and Spain’s substitutes.

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