DONETSK, UKRAINE (AP) - Spain is looking for a little history and a little revenge Saturday in its European Championship quarterfinal against France.
Spain has never beaten the French in six major competitions, the most recent loss coming at the 2006 World Cup. Spain hasn’t been eliminated from a major tournament since, and defender Sergio Ramos doesn’t want another French victory to end his team’s bid for a third straight major title.
“Football offers up something nice, which is you always get a chance at revenge, and (Saturday night) we get that chance,” said Ramos, who played in that 3-1 second-round loss to Les Bleus in Hannover, Germany. “In 2006, we didn’t possess the maturity or the experience that we have now. We were in the midst of being formed into a team, with a lot of new players.”
Since that result, Spain has gone on to hone the quick-touch, possession game that led to triumphs at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Between those title wins, the French claimed the fifth of its six wins over Spain.
“There are facts that can’t be denied, and we will strive to change that,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said Friday from the Donbass Arena. “We’re favorites since we’re world and European champions, but in the prior matchups France has been superior to us. Let’s see if we are capable of changing that precedent by extending the success we’ve achieved.”
Del Bosque said he had doubts over his lineup after the unconvincing 1-0 victory over Croatia, which helped Spain finish first in its group.
Spain’s attack has been led by striker Fernando Torres or midfielder Cesc Fabregas, and there was no further clarity over which way Del Bosque would lean in the team’s first match in Ukraine. Striker Fernando Llorente, who impressed this season with Athletic Bilbao, remains unused at Euro 2012.
“I have a doubt, but it’s better to have one,” the former Real Madrid coach said. “We have options and we’ll try to pick the team that offer us the best chance. We’ve always had these doubts, it’s not a question of it being the quarterfinals.”
Spain was not letting news of France’s locker-room outburst following the loss to Sweden soften the team’s approach.
“In every household of every family, there are arguments,” Ramos said, “and that doesn’t necessarily mean the unit is affected.”
The Spanish are the masters of keeping possession, but the French have the likes of Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery and Yohan Cabaye. They are comfortable on the ball, making the match potentially one for the purists.
“They like to hold possession, their midfield likes the ball, Ribery wants it,” said midfielder Juan Mata, who has yet to play in the tournament. “If the game turns out to be like the ones against our past opponents, then we’ve been working on variety of ways to break them down.”