France claimed a 1-0 win over Spain in an entertaining international friendly in Paris on Thursday.
While Spain bowed out of the World Cup with a whimper, France made an impressive run to the quarter-finals. The momentum from Brazil was very much evident on Thursday, as France were the better side—and were rewarded with substitute Loic Remy’s goal on 74 minutes.
For Spain, they are a side in transition, with their midfield stars Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso now retired. Vicente Del Bosque will hope to find the key, starting with a Euro 2016 qualifier with Macedonia on Monday.
The first glimpse of Spain’s in-form Chelsea striker Diego Costa arrived four minutes in, but he came off second-best in a foot race with Raphael Varane, and it set the tone for the contest. Big things are expected of Varane, and the Real Madrid defender showed pace, strength and real composure to get to the ball first and then calmly pick out a team-mate.
Karim Benzema is the focal point of the France attack and he had the first shot on target when firing in a low drive that was held by David De Gea. On just his second outing for Spain, it was a welcome touch for the keeper.
France raised the decibel level on 17 minutes with a slick move down the right. Moussa Sissoko went in search of Benzema with a low cross, but Dani Carvajal had read the play and stepped in to make a timely interception.
Great shot of Moussa Sissoko powering through a Cesar Azpilicueta-Sergio Ramos sandwich. Meaty. pic.twitter.com/rFNk5L0b2e— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 4, 2014
Paul Pogba gave a glimpse of his class on 25 minutes with a glorious clipped pass into the path of Benzema. The ball into the box invited a volley, but Benzema miscued and the chance went begging.
De Gea denied Benzema early on in the contest and he repeated the dose on 39 minutes, diving to his left to collect a fizzing drive.
France looked the more threatening in possession in the first half, and when Spain did get the ball forward, Costa was woefully short of support runners.
I don't remember Spain ever struggling so much for possession. First game of the post Xavi - Xabi era.— Fernando R. Vila (@nandorvila) September 4, 2014
France had the ball in the back of the net on 50 minutes, but the celebrations in the Stade de France were cut short by an offside flag. Replays suggested Benzema had held his run perfectly to meet Sissoko’s cross, with the French looking hard done to.
Good goal for France after a good movement. Should have stood.— Janusz Michallik (@JanuszESPN) September 4, 2014
Both coaches made changes as the second half developed, but the pattern of play remained largely the same. France continued to probe, and on 74 minutes, they took the lead.
A rapid passing move opened up Spain, Mathieu Valbuena got his head up and picked out Remy, who curled his shot with his left foot from 10 yards beyond De Gea.
Costa was the Chelsea striker expected to hog the spotlight, but it was his fellow summer recruit Remy who took centre stage.
With Euro 2016 being on home soil, France will have to make do with international friendlies to fine-tune their preparations.
The lack of competitive games could be perceived as a disadvantage but, on the evidence of this display, Didier Deschamps’ side will be one of the leading fancies in a little under two years’ time.
David De Gea: B
The Manchester United keeper is looking to become Spain's No. 1. On only his second appearance in the national jersey, he looked extremely assured. He did not have to make a mass of saves, but the ones he had to collect he did so with authority.
Diego Costa: C-
The Chelsea man is in the fledgling stage of his Spain career. Player and team are still working out the best way to incorporate the striker as he lacked support when he did get the ball in advanced positions.
Moussa Sissoko: B+
The Newcastle midfielder was a bundle of energy down the right flank. Sissoko was always demanding the ball and looked threatening every time he received it.
Raphael Varane: B
The Real defender did not have a massive amount to do but what he did he did well. And his reading of the game enabled him to stay one step ahead of Costa for the most part.
Del Bosque asked on TV about Diego Costa & team not scoring goals: “It is up to us to connect with him, to understand him.”— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) September 4, 2014