Five to watch in France-Spain game
Spain's national soccer player Andres Iniesta arrives at their hotel in Donetsk June 22, 2012. Spain will play its quarter-final of the Euro 2012 soccer championships against France in Donetsk, Ukraine on June 23. (JUAN MEDINA/Reuters)
Five key players to Watch Saturday in the Euro 2012 quarterfinal between Spain and France at the Donbass Arena:
MF Andres Iniesta, Spain
The slick Spanish midfielder has a flair for the dramatic, a penchant he exhibited with his winning goal in extra time against the Netherlands in Spain's 1-0 victory in the World Cup final in South Africa two years ago. As a key cog in Spain's star-studded midfield, he isn't afraid to come forward and jump into the offence at any given time, something the French must be aware of. He is considered the quiet leader of the defending Euro and World champions.
MF Samir Nasri, France
With the French yelling at each other in the locker room after a 2-0 loss Tuesday to Sweden, there has been talk around the French camp that Nasri has alienated himself from his teammates by putting individual goals ahead of those of the side -- allegations that team officials quickly clamoured to deny. Whatever the case, the French will need Nasri to produce offence if they have any hopes of upsetting the World's No. 1-ranked team. Nasri scored a beautiful goal on a rocket from outside the box in France's first game against England but then went missing in the next two matches. If France has any hope in this one, Nasri had best show up.
F Fernando Torres, Spain
Since leaving Liverpool, Torres has failed to exhibit the gifted boot that made him one of the world's most dangerous young scorers in the sport. But he has shown he can rise to the occasion on the big stage. It was, after all, Torres who scored the Euro-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Germany in the final four years ago. With star striker David Villa unavailable for Euro 2012 because of injury, can Torres be relied upon to fill the void? Thus far in the tournament, he has played in all three of Spain's games, started two and scored twice. Can he keep it up?
MF Frank Ribery, France
Ribery is at his best when he is using his speed to cause havoc down the wing. Because the Spaniards like to play a tight disciplined formation, Ribery is the type of chaotic force who can use those skills to force the world champs out of position. The knock on him, however, is that he can become disinterested quickly if he does not see the ball early and often in games. As one of the veterans on this young French side, it is imperative that Ribery keeps his head in the game as much as his feet. And it would be nice if he cut out his habit of flopping to draw fouls, too. That might be asking too much.
MF Xavi Hernandez, Spain
He has been called the catalyst of Spain's ball-control philosophy. So smooth, never rattled and, most importantly, never rushed. It could be argued that there is no better distributor of the ball than Xavi. When it comes to the Spanish midfield, defenders pretty much have to pick their poison, especially where Xavi and Iniesta are concerned. Expect these two to see a lot of the ball, much to the chagrin of the French.