International friendlies - France impress against new-look Spain

International friendly, Stade de France – France 1 (Remy 73’) Spain 0

Eurosport
International friendlies - France impress against new-look Spain
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: Spanish defender Sergio Ramos (R) vies with French midfielder Moussa Sissoko during the friendly football match France vs Spain (AFP)

France impressed against a disjointed Spain side, winning 1-0 at the Stade de France.

Spain were much changed from the team that disappointed so much at the World Cup. Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta were all absent, through injury or retirement. Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas were now the senior midfielders, augmented by the young Raul Garcia and Koke, backed up by Santi Cazorla, previously a reserve for the national side.

France were much the same as they were in Rio, with Franck Ribery now permanently excused from international duty through retirement. In the first half, Patrice Evra’s repeated vulnerability suggested that continuity might not be entirely a virtue.

In the second half, Benzema thought he had given France the lead, but the linesman incorrectly ruled him offside. Loic Remy was the eventual hero, rounding off an excellent move with Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena slicing through the Spain defence in the build-up. Spain struggled for fluency, but they were still far better than they had been during their 2014 World Cup disaster. On this showing, France can be optimistic for their Euro 2016 prospects.

KEY EVENTS

9’ – DE GEA SAVE – Benzema is slipped in down the left side of the box, but slightly scuffs his shot from a tight angle.

27’ – FABREGAS EFFORT – France repel two Spain crosses but the ball eventually comes to Fabregas, lurking outside the box. His shot is deflected into the air, and loops just over the bar.

39’ – BENZEMA SHOT – Antoine Griezmann brings down a long ball which falls into the path of Karim Benzema. He thumps a shot at David De Gea, who saves well.

49’ - DISALLOWED GOAL - France 1-0 Spain! No! Disallowed. Benzema lays the ball off to Moussa Sissoko, who returns a square pass to Benzema - onside, and he strokes the ball into the corner. The linesman raises his flag and incorrectly disallows it.

65’- VALBUENA MISS - Blaise Matuidi has his back to goal on the left of the box. He plays the ball back for Valbuena, who takes one touch and then drags a low shot wide of the near post.

73’ – REMY SCORES - Benzema slides the ball forward for Valbuena, who's sneaked into the box. He pulls the ball back for Remy, lurking, and he sends the ball into the corner.

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Loïc Rémy and Mathieu Valbuena

83’ – SILVA MISS - David Silva runs onto a great through ball into the box, and he just scuffs the ball wide of the post.

90’ – BENZEMA CHANCE - Benzema has room from a tight angle to strike at goal, but he thumps his shot straight at De Gea.

KEY STATS

Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta did not feature for Spain - they have 503 caps between them.

Of the starting line up for France, only Mathieu Debuchy, Mathieu Valbuena and Patrica Evra will be over 30 for the Euro 2016 tournament, to be held in France.

Spain have lost their last two games against European opposition.

MATCHCAST: FULL MATCH STATS AND COMMENTARY

TALKING POINT

Lack of competition could hold France back for their home tournament in 2016. Spain are one of the best sides in the world, even if they are recalibrating after the mess of Brazil. It still showed, though, that they were yet to adjust to their new formation and personnel, and were playing at half-pace. If France are to really test themselves ahead of France 2016, they will need to find more motivated opposition.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Mathieu Valbuena (France): Valbuena moved to Russia in the summer after Marcelo Bielsa passed on the chance to work with him at Marseille. That might make sense for Bielsa's particular tactical plans, but for Valbuena it was a missed chance to test himself in the best leagues in the world, Spain or England. His technical excellence, swift movement in the box and vision created the goal, and will be one of France's most potent weapon after Franck Ribery's retirement.

PLAYER RATINGS

France: Lloris 6, Debuchy 6, Varane 6, Sakho 6, Evra 5, Pogba 7, Matuidi 6, Sissoko 7, Valbuena 7, Griezmann 6, Benzema 6. Subs: Remy 7, Digne 7, Cabaye 6, Cabella 6, Schneiderlin 6.

Spain: De Gea 6, Carvajal 6, Ramos 4, San Jose 5, Azpilicueta 5, Busquets 4, Cazorla 4, Koke 5, Garcia 5, Fabregas 6, Costa 6. Subs: Iturraspe 6, Silva 7, Alacer 5, Pedro 6, Isco 6.

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