The third quarterfinal match at Euro 2012 takes place on Saturday June 23, at 2:45 p.m. ET in Donetsk, Ukraine. France has already played twice in Donetsk—a 1-1 draw against England and a 2-0 win over host Ukraine. Spain qualified in Poland.
Bovada has installed Spain as the strong favorite here.
They are at -130 on the moneyline, with the draw at +250 and France at +400. The point spread is at pick, with Spain at -330 and France at +250. The total is set at 2.5, and the "under" is very heavily favored at -180, compared to +145 on the "over."
How They Got Here
Spain is here thanks to winning Group C—something they were universally expected to do.
They opened up with something of a shocking result—a draw against Italy. They didn’t play their best in that game and seemed to not yet be focused on their task at hand—almost as if they were taking their advancement in the tournament for granted.
They had no such issues in their second game, when they beat Ireland, 4-0, in the most lopsided, uninteresting game in the entire tournament.
Their final game against Croatia was a bit of a scare, in the sense that they only scored the winning goal in the 88th minute, but they were very much in command throughout the game and played very well—especially defensively—despite the score.
It wasn’t the overall tour de force that many expected from Spain based on the expectations on them coming in, but they did what they needed to do and never looked like they were operating at anywhere close to their full capacity—except for very brief moments when they needed to. If they are as good as people think they are, then they have a lot left in the tank.
France has been all over the map in this tournament.
In their opener, they played to a spirited draw against England. They allowed the first goal but fought back quickly and played tight—though they benefited from an English attack compromised by the absence of Wayne Rooney.
In the second game, they played very well. Ukraine was riding high after a big opening win and playing in front of a very vocal home crowd, yet France scored twice early in the second half to put the game away. It was a strong effort.
What was mystifying, given that strong showing, was that they were so lousy in their last game.
As it turned out they didn’t need a win to advance, but they didn’t know that when their game against Sweden kicked off. They were unfocused, often looked disinterested and lost 2-0 in a game that they should have been able to win with ease. France may have looked like a team on the rise that could be a nice bet at a relative long-shot price, but that last game cast serious doubt on that.
What makes Spain so scary in their untapped potential.
They have had some good play at times from their best players, but they don’t have a single player who has played his best yet. Everyone can be better, and they have plenty of experience playing in the pressure of elimination rounds. They are already an incredibly deep and talented team, so adding in their ability to improve makes them tough to beat.
You could look at the upside of the roster as a benefit for the French as well.
Several players—most notably Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema—have not yet performed at the level we know they are capable of. They clearly need to be much better than they have been to have a chance against Spain, and we know that they have the potential to do so.
For France the biggest concern by far is a lack of leadership.
When this team was at the pinnacle of the sport, it was the play of guys like Thierry Henry that led the way on the scoresheet and in the locker room. Now, this team doesn’t seem to have a real identity or a clear leader, and that lack of leadership was on prime display in their no-show against Sweden. They are certain to face some adversity in this one, and I just can’t have a lot of faith that they can thrive in the face of it.
As for Spain, by biggest concern is that they have not yet shifted into a higher gear.
They have done what they needed to do, but they haven’t looked nearly as good as they can. They need to kick their game into a higher gear if they want to go all the way. In their last two major tournament wins, they have done just that, but up to that point, they had a long history of coming up well short of their potential.
Predictions and Betting Picks
I was skeptical about France heading into the tournament, and their play so far has only enhanced my concerns.
Spain was the second-best team in the field in my eyes before it all began, and if anything, that has only been reinforced because no one else has stepped up to challenge them. It would be a fairly significant upset in my eyes if France won.
Given the matchup, I like the value in Spain on the moneyline.