In World Cup 2010 the French were famously at each other’s throats. Coach at the time Raymond Domenech was laughed at for his selections, with the romanticized notion of him selecting teams with astrology charts being scribbled everywhere. Patrice Evra fell out with his coach and there was talk of strikes. They played, to put it mildly, without rhythm.
Fast forward to Poland and Ukraine’s EURO 2012 competition and everything seemed to be as rosy as the Gallic temperament would allow. After two games against England and hosts Ukraine the French could boast 23 games unbeaten. Coach Laurent Blanc looked for all the world like the steady, calming influence that France needed.
Then they lost to Sweden 2-0.
France had scraped through to the quarter finals after being fancied to top Group D. Their fantastic record crumbled away and discussions on progression started.
Such discussions never seem to go well for the French. Stories trickled out about a dressing room bust-up with midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Blanc. Olivier Giroud spoke of massive bouts of shouting and Florent Malouda described panic and misunderstanding.
The thrust of this incident –which was said to have been close to spilling out into press conferences –is that the team did not play well together. A side does not go unbeaten for 23 games without pulling together. On top of this, France are the only side through to the quarter finals who have not scored a single goal in the tournament with one of their strikers. They rely on each other rather than a front runner.
French soccer historically trade on unpredictability. They have had a falling out, but will this hinder them against Spain? The truth is that they could fall apart or they could pull together. The likes of Karim Benzema, a goalless striker, will want to impress against the nation of his employers, Real Madrid.
Anything could happen.