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Spain v France: Euro 2024 semi-final – live | Euro 2024

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Spain v France: Euro 2024 semi-final – live | Euro 2024


19.40 BST

I said earlier that Jules Kounde has style. Exhibit A:

Updated at 19.40 BST

19.39 BST

“Shame that Robin Le Normand is out, says Charles Antaki. “It’s always a pleasure when the director brings him into close-up, usually when he’s done something daft. He has that underfed mediaeval look that goes along with his name: the hapless hero of a quest, perhaps, or a junior knight who doesn’t survive the first skirmish with the Saracens. Nacho looks quite mediaeval too of course, but not in the same style.”

I always read his name like he’s burglarising an old Bournemouth hotel.

Updated at 19.39 BST

19.35 BST

France, meanwhile, will want to lean on Spain in midfield. Easier said than done of course, because where they once had little guys you couldn’t find, now they have big ones who’ll find you. Otherwise, they’ll look to play off Kolo Muani and get their wingers in behind when in possession, and to spring on the counter when not.

Updated at 19.35 BST

19.33 BST

So where is the game? Spain will look to pick holes in the france back four, looking to feed balls in behind for Olmo, Morata and the wingers. But they’ll also be looking to move it side to side, quickly, to get those wingers one-on-one with their full-backs. And from there, they’ll look to zip balls across the box for Morata, or go for goal themselves.

Spain fans raise the decibels in Munich! Photograph: Michaela Stache/Reuters

Updated at 19.40 BST

19.30 BST

“Dinner over, coffee at hand, TV on, bring it on….” says Krishnamoorthy V. “Am supporting Spain today as I did in 2010 simply because Didier insulted the whole watching world with the statement ‘if it is boring go watch something else’. Hubris comes before the fall and I shall celebrate the fall tonight.”

I don’t mind him saying that that – he can manage his team as he wishes, and he’s answerable to no one but the French people. But where him and I disagree is on the benefit of his method: I don’t want France to play differently to amuse me, I just think that if they did play differently they’d be a much better side.

Updated at 19.30 BST

19.26 BST

This is the real battle though: Casa de Papel v Le Bureau.

Updated at 19.26 BST

19.24 BST

Didier Deschamps, I think, is changing style a little. Against Portugal, France played a number 10 behind two strikers, whereas tonight they’ve gone for a front three. I think they’ll want to bog Spain down in midfield and counter, stretching the pitch, but I’d also not be surprised to see Rabiot and Kanté rampaging forward through the middle.

Updated at 19.24 BST

19.22 BST

Spain, then, have a bit of a problem. At his peak, Jesus Navas was a sometimes-good winger, and now, in his dotage, he’s a right-back expected to contain Mbappe in a tournament semi-final; good luck old mate.

On the other hand, we’ve seen Nacho come into a team and defend like Baresi – he was brilliant in the second leg of Real Madrid’s Champions League tie – so I’m not concerned for Spain in that area – but anty team in the world is poorer without Pedri.

Updated at 19.22 BST

19.18 BST

As for France, Adrien Rabiot returns after suspension, replacing Camavinga, while Antoine Griezmann loses out to Ousmane Dembele.

Updated at 19.18 BST

19.16 BST

Spain are without Pedri, nobbled in the quarter-final by Toni “Bites yer Legs” Kroos, along with the suspended Dani Carvajal and Robin Le Normand. So Dani Olmo, who scored against Germany, keeps his place in midfield, with at right-back and centre-back, it’s Jesus Navas and Nacho respectively.

Nope, not having that. Photograph: Leonhard Simon/Reuters

Updated at 19.27 BST

19.09 BST

I’ll write those down, then we’ll have a think about what they mean.

Updated at 19.09 BST

19.07 BST

Our teams

Spain (4-2-3-1): Unai Simón; Jesús Navas, Nacho, Laporte, Cucurella; Rodri, Fabián Ruiz; Lamine Yamal, Olmo, Williams; Morata. Subs: Raya, Remiro, Vivian, Merino, Joselu, Ferran Torres, Grimaldo, Álex Baena, Zubimendi, Oyarzabal, Fermín López, Pérez.

France (4-3-3): Maignan; Koundé, Upamecano, Saliba, Hernández T; Kanté, Tchoumeni, Rabiot; Dembélé, Koli Muani, Mbappé. Subs: Samba, Areola, Pavard, Mendy, Camavinga, Griezmann, Giroud, Thuram, Zaïre-Emery, Fofana, Coman, Clauss, Konaté, Barcola.

Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)

Updated at 19.07 BST

18.29 BST

Preamble

Style and substance are often presented as dichotomies, but in reality the relationship between them is far closer – so close that almost necessarily, each brings with it the other. So we might criticise Oscar Wilde, say, for bestowing upon us many more flourishes than messages … but equally we might realise that the flourishes are the messages, him advising us how to enjoy our lives. Similarly, we might complain that Jeffrey Archer, say, is not the greatest prose stylist of all time … or we might remind ourselves that sustaining an exciting story is a style all of its own.

So to cast today’s little tussle as a battle of style versus substance does not do justice to what we’re about to see – and how ludicrous it feels to be writing words to set that up when the simple fact of it, Spain v France, European Championship semi-finals, says more than any smartarse writer ever could. But here we are, so here we are.

So far, Spain have been the best side in this tournament – not much of an accolade, it’s true. And because they commit to a particular way of playing, they’re viewed as style merchants, but the reality is more nuanced. First of all they are – in the best possible way – cynical, snide and dirty. But more than that, the way they play is neither a service to football nor to us; rather it is, in their opinion and experience, the way they are most likely to succeed. Never in the history of the game has there been a method more difficult to beat than theirs, which is to say that even Álvaro Morata can’t dilute the substance oozing from their every pore.

France, on the other hand, are – like England and like Portugal – unbearably frustrating to watch because with the players they have, they ought to be so much better than they are. But though they couldn’t be less fun, the entire approach is predicated on Kylian Mbappé, and surely we’re surely not about to accuse him – or William Saliba, or Jules Koundé for that matter – of lacking style.

In other words, our teams are more similar than we might first think. Spain prioritise control, but no midfield containing Eduardo Camavinga, Aurélien Tchouaméni and N’Golo Kanté is going out to just let the other team have the ball, while France might plan to wait and counter, but no attack containing Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams will be shy about doing the exact same thing.

All of which is great for us, because it means none of us has the slightest clue how this is going to go – not even @TactixSzn on Twitter. There’s a very strong chance the game doesn’t flow, but very little chance it isn’t tight, intense and epic, the most embarrassingly compelling event taking place on the planet this evening – and there’s nothing more stylish or substantial than that. Aquí vamos y c’est parti!

Kick-off: 9pm local, 8pm BST

Updated at 19.05 BST



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