Differing fortunes at the 2014 World Cup leave France and Spain with quite opposite expectations of what the future might hold on the international stage.
Les Bleus were a surprisingly entertaining package en route to their quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual champions Germany, while Spain's group-stage departure as defending champions was a shock to the football community.
France appear to be on the up, while Spain begin their attempts to arrest a rather sudden decline.
The meeting of these two sides on Thursday makes for an enticing occasion, irrespective of the low stakes involved, and we provide viewing details and preview to ensure not a second is missed.
Date: Thursday, Sept. 4
Time: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET
TV Info: Sky Sports 5 (UK), ESPN Deportes (US)
Spain's Changing Of The Guard
In the wake of this summer's World Cup disappointment, the changes are being rung in Spain, and Vicente del Bosque is clearly unafraid of upsetting any regulars in his bid to restore La Furia Roja.
Five uncapped players are in line for debuts against the French, with Kiko Casilla, Mikel San Jose, Dani Carvajal, Raul Garcia and Paco Alcacer each earning their international recognition with fine form in recent months.
Gerard Pique has been left out of the 23-man squad, although ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan says the omission is due to a hip problem, not any indication of the centre-back being ostracised:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Pique said he decided to rest hip issue this week not play for Spain, thanks Del Bosque for understanding http://t.co/954xwmLjkA9/1/2014, 10:12:43 AM
As confirmed by Spanish publication SPORT, a knee injury has also seen Andres Iniesta taken out of the squad, with Del Bosque choosing not to bring in a replacement:
SPORT English @Sport_EN
Andres Iniesta joins Gerard Pique among those absent from Spain's upcoming matches http://t.co/ZSkAgGxgvD9/1/2014, 6:16:39 PM
Those players yet to make their national team bow will hope for an impact on Thursday, along with the less experienced figures of Marc Bartra, Cesar Azpilicueta and Isco, all of whom could have big involvement with the squad in years to come.
With Xavi now retired from the team, Spain's transition into a new era continues, and it's essential new heroes are unearthed if the side is to reach the same heights of their famous three successive major international trophies.
Didier Deschamps' Project Continues
While Spain's squad has taken on a revolutionised look, rife with new faces and some surprise selections, Didier Deschamps' is almost identical to the one that travelled to Brazil earlier in the year.
Steve Mandanda comes into the goalkeeping ranks at the expense of Mickael Landreau, while beIN Sports confirmed that injury would rule Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny out, replaced by Barcelona's Jeremy Mathieu:
beIN SPORTS USA @beINSPORTSUSA
KO-scielny. @Arsenal defender out of France action with head injury: http://t.co/BEkGBlmxcy http://t.co/bAeTl9v25w9/1/2014, 3:00:28 PM
Olivier Giroud's broken leg also sees Alexandre Lacazette come into the line-up. Robin Bairner of Goal.com feels the Lyon attacker's inclusion is fully deserved:
Robin Bairner @RBairner
No major shocks in the #France squad to face Spain and Serbia. Lacazette justly earns a call after an excellent 2014 to date. #EDF8/28/2014, 12:10:51 PM
The 2014 World Cup exit to Germany was unfortunate, with a Mats Hummels finish being all that stood between France and a place in the competition's semi-finals.
Evidently, Les Bleus are putting the controversies of the 2010 World Cup behind them, and a new squad with vast potential is emerging under Deschamps, who will seek further solidity with a win over the Spanish.
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