Injury and suspensions force Spanish rejig as France defiantly brush off critics

July 9 – Goal-shy France will be looking to silence the critics when they take on Spain in their Euro 2024 semi-final clash tonight in Munich while their opponents hope to end a 12-year success drought despite missing a string of  key players through suspension and injury.

French superstar captain Kylian Mbappé has struggled to get to grips with his protective mask while his country haven’t scored a single goal in open play.

Conversely, facing Mbappe is the only side with a 100% record at Euro 2024,  joint top scorers (11) and joint number of total attempts (102), setting up a mouth-watering tie featuring two titans of European football.

France had been expected to sweep all before them in Germany but have done anything but, prompting a stream of criticism for a string of underwhelming displays.

Despite reaching the final of the last two World Cups, winning in Russia in 2018 and losing only on penalties to Argentina in Qatar in 2022, France’s Euros record under coach Didier Deschamps is less impressive. In his 12 years, their best result was a runner-up spot in 2016 on home soil.

In the quarter finals, France edged past Portugal on penalties, with Mbappe substituted after fiddling with his mask more than threatening the opposition goal.

But France are digging in with a siege mentality.

“I don’t give a damn [about the critics],” midfielder Youssouf Fofana told a press conference on Sunday. “We are semi-finalists.”

Spain, in contrast to France, have been imperious with five straight wins but no side has ever won six in a row and crucially, they will be missing midfielder Pedri, out with a knee injury, while defenders Robin Le Normand and Dani Carvajal are suspended. The experienced Nacho will switch to centre back alongside Aymeric Laporte while 38-year-old Jesus Navas takes on the fullback role.

Asked once again about criticism of his team’s form, Deschamps remained spikily defiant.

“If we’re boring you, you can watch something else, it doesn’t matter,” he charged. “It’s a very particular European Championship, with less goals than normal. If (others) are bored, I don’t really care.”

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