ESP vs FRA, Euro 2024 semifinal: France aims to silence critics against depleted Spain

Goal-shy France will be looking to silence the critics when it takes on Spain in their Euro 2024 semifinal clash on Tuesday in Munich, while its opponents hopes to keep its impressive campaign going even without key players.

With Kylian Mbappe leading its talented squad, France was well among the favourites when it arrived in Germany.

But it has come under fire from fans and pundits alike for a string of unimpressive performances and has reached the last four without scoring a single goal in open play.

Despite reaching the final of the last two World Cups, winning in Russia in 2018 and losing only on penalties to Argentina in Qatar four years later, its Euros record under coach Didier Deschamps is less impressive. In his 12 years, its best result was a runner-up spot in 2016 on home soil.

On Friday it only edged past Portugal on penalties, with Mbappe substituted after another match where he spent more time fiddling with his mask than setting up his teammates.

Deschamps’ France often manages to be dour and dramatic at the same time – defensively solid, it tends to waste chances up front, and it survived against Portugal partly thanks to similarly wasteful Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mbappe’s form after sustaining a broken nose in France’s opener and that of Antoine Griezmann remain big question marks ahead of the clash with Spain, who overcame a raucous Stuttgart Arena crowd to beat the hosts with a goal in the final minutes of extra time.

“Personally I don’t give a damn” about the critics, midfielder Youssouf Fofana told a press conference on Sunday.

“We are semifinalists. Questions about the level of Antoine and Kylian? We have to realise that that’s enough to be in the semifinals. So I don’t see why we would nitpick.”

However, it remains to be seen if it is enough to get past a highly aggressive Spain, which is in imperious form with five straight wins so far at Euro 2024 but will be missing several key players in Munich.

Midfielder Pedri is out of the tournament after sustaining a knee injury in a nasty clash with Germany midfielder Toni Kroos in their dramatic win on Saturday.

Substitute Mikel Merino’s header in the 119th minute gave Spain a 2-1 win in a nerve-racking encounter that ended with 16 bookings including a yellow card for centre back Robin Le Normand and a red for fullback Dani Carvajal, meaning both are suspended for Tuesday’s game.

Real Madrid defender Nacho will play centre-back alongside Aymeric Laporte and 38-year-old full-back Jesus Navas, the last player of Spain’s golden generation who won the 2010 World Cup and back to back Euro titles in 2008 and 2012.

Navas will share the right-hand channel with 16-year-old winger Lamine Yamal, one of the players of the Euros so far harassing opponents’ defences together with Nico Williams, 21.

All in all the team is a blend of deep experience and raw talent that has been thriving under the calm guidance of coach Luis de la Fuente.

“This is everyone’s national team. Unity is strength and if we all keep pushing in the same direction, we can achieve our goals. If we are connecting with our fans then I am more than happy to play a part in generating enthusiasm,” de la Fuente told reporters.

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