France will obviously bounce Spain out of Euro 2024 because life and the universe are just that cruel

Dave Tickner
Reported Arsenal targets Mikel Merino and Nico Williams celebrate a Spain victory
Mikel Merino and Nico Williams celebrate a Spain victory.

Spain have been the one reliable beacon of excellence at Euro 2024, so of *course* they’ll lose to a France team that makes England look free-flowing.

 

One of the interesting things about Euro 2024 is that England were 3/1 before a ball was kicked, when there was a group stage and four knockout rounds to negotiate, and, having now reached the semi-finals, have tumbled all the way to… 11/4.

So according to the bookies, England’s chances have improved from one in four to very slightly better than one in four.

There are fairly obvious reasons for that to be found among England’s own performances, but it does mean that by definition one of those prices must have been wrong. The 3/1 definitely was, but there’s a reasonable argument for it being both. Do we really think that England, with their moribund yet solid football and crack squad of elite penalty takers only house their way to a couple more draw-wins four times out of 15 from here?

But there’s another reason beyond England’s own failure to convince. There is a widespread and fair assumption that the tournament winner will simply come from the other half of the draw. Now you do risk upsetting Ollie Holt and other Southgate Ultras by pointing out the obvious fact that semi-final contains the two teams to come through the harder side of the draw, so it makes sense that the winner of France v Spain would be expected to win the tournament.

Spain because they have been the one team to actually look consistently and repeatedly half-decent throughout, and France because they are France.

We’ll help you out here. It’s bloody France. Of course it’s France.

They are, to the inevitable distress of both nations, basically an overpowered version of England.

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With an even better and deeper squad of players they have managed to be even less convincing and even less than the sum of their considerable parts. And done it under a manager with a superb tournament CV who has been a brilliant leader of men, sorting out all manner of previously deep-seated tournament foibles, but at dread cost to the quality of football produced by undeniably elite players.

It will be objectively funny if England and France both sh*thouse (maison de merde?) their way through one more round to set up a final that on paper should be brilliant but on grass will be grim beyond belief. It also feels the most likely outcome.

We’re a bit less sure about England, but we’re certain about the French. It is what they do.

Sure, Spain have the tournament’s most exciting players, with literal children causing good old-fashioned havoc on the wings, Marc Cucurella turning into prime Roberto Carlos for some reason, the ageless (quite literally, he could be anywhere between 27 and 38 at this point and it wouldn’t really surprise you) Alvaro Morata leading the line and above all, sat in the middle dictating terms as he always does with such apparent effortlessness, Rodri: a man who quite simply refuses to lose football matches under any circumstances ever.

It’s a potent combination of factors that has made Spain comfortably the standout team of the tournament. Unlike any of the other final four – all of whom if they’re honest with themselves would admit to some feelings of sheepishness at finding themselves in this position given how they’ve gone about it – Spain have got here in some style.

What Spain do – and it’s an interesting tactic that really makes them stand out from the pack – is go out to try and win football matches on a consistent and repeated basis. They did so in their first four matches of the tournament, were only denied a fifth straight win by an 89th-minute Germany equaliser in the quarter-finals and put that right with a similarly late goal in extra-time to avoid any penalty unpleasantness.

So Spain have four 90-minute wins to their name, plus one in extra-time. Their three rivals have six regular-time wins between them, plus one more in extra-time. Spain are the only sane choice to win against France and again against whoever stumbles out of the other semi-final.

But they won’t, will they?

Every single goal France have scored at this tournament has been an own goal or a penalty. Even if we break with all goal-counting convention and include the five they tucked away against Portugal in the quarter-final shoot-out, they have still scored fewer goals overall than Spain.

There is simply no way the universe permits a Spain win here.

Germany almost dragged Spain to penalties and they are a team not yet quite sure of themselves, not yet certain which path this iteration of Die Mannschaft will take. They could become a football team like Spain, or they could become unapologetic housery merchants like France; but at the moment they’re not quite one thing or the other.

France know what they are, know what they want and how to get it. And they will get it whether we like it or not.

MORE ON THE EURO 2024 DRAW FROM F365
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