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Why Spain v France could be seen as a battle of heroes versus villains

<span>Will the match live up to this cracking composite image?</span><span>Photograph: Uefa/Getty Images</span>
Will the match live up to this cracking composite image?Photograph: Uefa/Getty Images

THE (SEMI-)FINAL COUNTDOWN

Good versus evil, a battle as old as time Ipswich Town’s Jimmy Leadbetter. Just as there are heroes (Philomena Cunk, Sir Patrick Vallance, Big Pun) and villains (Gregg Wallace, that bloke with the ukulele singing to Dua Lipa at Glastonbury, the bamboo that refuses to stop growing in Euro 2024 Daily’s garden) in the wider world, there are heroes and villains in football.

The first semi-final of Euro 2024 is just that. Spain, our heroes, sent to Germany to save the continent from some of the worst tactics these Euros have ever seen, are the best team at the tournament by a country mile, playing fluent, thrilling football with both freedom and control. They have the best midfielder in the world and a 16-year-old with a claim to be the best player at this tournament so far. Not sure if you can be an emerging talent if you played 50 games for Barcelona last season, but Lamine Yamal has given it a good go. Nico Williams is not half bad, either. And have you seen Spain’s pre-match 90s-inspired Adidas tracksuits? Serious drip, as the kids would say.

Despite having a squad so talented it could make Jack Dee break into song, France have – remarkably more than England – absolutely stunk out the tournament, but still find themselves in the last four despite failing to score from open play. It’s turgid, pragmatic stuff that gets results. Sort of like watching Big Sam at a hot dog-eating contest. He might win, and it’s impressive in a weird sort of way, but few want to tune in. “If you’re getting bored, watch another game,” Didier Deschamps roared in his pre-match press conference. “You don’t have to watch – it’s fine. It’s a special Euros. It’s very difficult for everyone, with fewer goals. It hasn’t been the same as in the past, but we share the desire to make French men and women happy through the results we have been getting, especially in a period that has been hard for our country.”

To make matters worse for Deschamps and the watching public, Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann – our best hope of avoiding Un Snoozefest – are both struggling for fitness. “It would be easier if we had the Antoine and the Kylian, which hasn’t been the case,” continued Deschamps. “Having to wear a mask means that Kylian’s field of vision changes. Although we are maybe having trouble, we have reached the semi-final. Antoine’s and Kylian’s legs are not as fresh as they could be but we have 100% faith in them. We know they can change the game at any point. We will need them if we are to get to the final.” And that’s all that matters at this point: winning. There are no pictures on the scorecard, as many a golfer has muttered. Of course, Spain aren’t really heroes, France aren’t really villains. Euro 2024 Daily doesn’t really care who makes the final. But it would be nice to see a goal or two along the way.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Scott Murray from 8pm BST for hot Euro 2024 semi-final coverage of Spain 1-0 France.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

He’s our captain, he’s our leader, he leads by example and we all follow him” – Luke Shaw is just one of many teammates jumping to the defence of England’s Brave and Loyal John Terry Harry Kane after his somnambulant displays in Germany so far.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

The Football Daily pod squad are back: Max Rushden is joined by Barney Ronay, Jonathan Liew and Jonathan Wilson to preview the semi-finals.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

It’s David Squires on … England’s performance art on their run to the last four.

EURO 2024 DAILY LETTERS

By letters standards, your 2 July discussion of Cristiano Ronaldo in the context of Good Will Hunting is a bit long in the tooth now, as are its sporting and cinematic subjects. But it brought quickly to mind a visit several friends and I paid to Boston this spring, during which we stumbled upon (and, some hours later, out of) the L St Tavern, a bar that served as a major set for the film by celebrated local pals Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Movie memorabilia under lacquered tabletops aside, L St remains a modest, warm, and friendly watering hole, with a steady clientele of regulars – including one fine young fellow we met who had verifiably advanced to a recent Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. A new savant, perhaps, in the fabled footsteps of Will Hunting? For Portugal’s sake, and that of its football admirers, if the curtain has indeed descended on the legendary Ronaldo’s international career, I hope an emergent Rafael Leão shines all the brighter in the faded star’s absence” – Clinton Macsherry.

Spain v Netherlands final: there is a future for football. Spain v England final: the irresistible force meet the lucky pack. France v Netherlands final: the undeserving meet the better team. France v England final: switch off TV, go for a long walk” – Krishna Moorthy.

Send letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. Today’s prizeless letter o’ the day winner is … Krishna Moorthy. Terms and conditions for our competitions can be viewed here.

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