After finishing second in Group D, France had a tough fixture against world and European champions Spain. Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny made his competitive international debut, while Arsenal target Yann M’Vila also started in a defensive midfield position. Arsenal bound Montpellier striker Oliver Giroud had to settle for a place on the bench. France played an unorthodox 3-5-2 formation, with centre backs Kosicleny and Rami spreading wide, and M’Vila dropping in as a third centre back.
Spain inevitably dominated possession throughout the match, with the Spanish opening the scoring through Xabi Alonso after excellent work from Jordi Alba down the left; Alba’s cross found an unmarked and onrushing Alonso, who expertly nodded in. Spain continued to dictate play as France struggled to string passes together. Rare periods of possession failed to materialise into any chances for the French, and as they pushed forward in search of a goal in the closing stages of the match, Pedro broke free in the area and was brought down, culminating in Alonso duly doubling Spain’s lead via the penalty spot, sending them through to the semi finals. Nasri expressed his fury at the poor performance towards media after the match, telling a journalist to “Go f*ck yourself”.
Koscielny deputised for the suspended Mexes, and was instrumental in restricting Spain to just two goals. His positioning was perfect and very rarely did Spain get behind the Arsenal man. The former FC Lorient defender looked assured on the ball, and made some vital blocks and challenges. Iniesta was released by Fabregas in the first half, but Koscielny slid in to block Iniesta’s goal bound effort. Late in the second half, Pedro burst into the area and slid the ball across to Torres, but Koscielny nipped in front of the Chelsea striker, and scrambled the ball away for a corner; surely a goal saving challenge. Despite Spain dominating possession, these were the only two notable challenges, with Spain, once taking the lead, persisting with their meticulous tiki-taka patterns. Koscielny finished with outstanding statistics of 3 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 clearances, 2 shots blocked, 2 offsides won and 91% pass accuracy.
Rennes midfielder and Arsenal target Yann M’Vila had a decent game. He looked confident on the ball, and rarely gave the ball away. He linked the play expertly and on a number of occasions was the source of periods of possession for France. M’Vila hardly ever found himself in an advanced position and acted as a third centre back to allow both full backs to venture forward when France had possession. One moment of magic from the 21 year old released Ribery with a terrific through ball, only for the winger to squander perhaps the most promising situation of the match for the French. M’Vila made 63 passes with 90% accuracy which included a mammoth 13 long balls, of which 9 were accurate. Only one tackle was completed though. However, when substituted for Giroud, M’Vila showed some attitude and sulked, which may discourage Wenger from signing him.
Earlier this week, Wenger admitted the Oliver Giroud to Arsenal deal was “90% done”. Despite scoring 26 goals last season for Ligue 1 winners Montpellier, Giroud had to settle for a place on the bench. The 6 foot 3 inch striker got his chance with France 1-0 down, coming on for M’Vila in the 79th minute, but suffered from a lack of service from his teammates, which meant he didn’t have an effect on the game, as France went out of Euro 2012 with a whimper.
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