Spain faces France with a spot in the final on the line

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Spain’s Fabian Ruiz, center, takes part during a training session with his teammates ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2024, semifinal soccer match against France in Donaueschingen, Germany. (AP )

MUNICH, July 8, (AP): Spain and France meet in the semifinals of the European Championship on Tuesday. The match pits one of the highest-scoring teams at the tournament against one of the lowest as France’s star forward Kylian Mbappé has struggled to get to grips with his mask.
The winner will play England or the Netherlands in the final on Sunday in Berlin. Their semifinal is on Wednesday.

Spain and France’s quarterfinals both went to extra time. Substitute Mikel Merino’s game-winning goal in the last minute of extra time handed Spain a 2-1 victory over host nation Germany, while France needed penalties to see off Portugal after the match ended goalless.

No France player has scored from open play at Euro 2024. The French have only scored through two own goals and a penalty from Mbappé. Spain has netted 11 times.
Mbappé, who will be facing several of his new Real Madrid teammates, will again be wearing a protective mask after sustaining a broken nose in France’s group opener against Austria.

Spain, which is chasing a record fourth European Championship title, has been perfect in Germany. It was the only team to win all its group-stage matches, while France could only muster draws against Poland and the Netherlands after a narrow win over Austria.
Spain paid the price for its dramatic win over Germany and several players will miss the semifinal – and in some cases the final should La Roja get there – because of suspension or injury.

Midfielder Pedri had to come off in the eighth minute against Germany with a knee injury following a hefty challenge from Toni Kroos and has been ruled out of the rest of Euro 2024. He will again be replaced by Dani Olmo – who came on for the 21-year-old and went on to score the opener as well as set up Merino’s winner.

Dani Carvajal was sent off late in extra time for a second yellow card and will be suspended against France, as will fellow defender Robin le Normand after picking up another booking. Veteran Jesús Navas is likely to be tasked with marking Mbappé.
France coach Didier Deschamps has no injury problems as Marcus Thuram returned to training on Sunday, alleviating concerns he could miss the semifinal after taking a blow to his thigh at the end of the match against Portugal.

Spain and France have only conceded three goals between them. The only time France goalkeeper Mike Maignan had to pick the ball out of his net was Poland’s retaken penalty in the group stage, while Spain conceded against Georgia and Germany.

The teams have met 36 times, with Spain winning 16 to France’s 13 – including five of the past eight.
This is Spain’s sixth European Championship semifinal. It has only once failed to advance to the trophy match, losing on penalties to eventual champion Italy at Euro 2020.
France has reached the semifinals on five previous occasions, winning three.

France has reached the final in three of the last four major tournaments, losing 1-0 after extra time to Portugal at Euro 2016 and to Argentina on penalties in the 2022 World Cup, but beating Croatia to claim its second world title in 2018.
“We’re in the semifinals and it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted, even if we may be used to it recently. Now we go to win it.” – France coach Didier Deschamps.
“Very few people gave us a chance and staying under the radar helped us start the tournament with confidence. Spain is a team to respect. I knew we had a great team and that’s how it turned out.” – Spain defender Marc Cucurella.

“It’s natural for him. He has this gift of carrying the team, the group. He gives ideas and advice to the players. He was born for that. He was born to pull the group up.” – France striker Randal Kolo Muani on Mbappé’s captaincy.
“My players are insatiable. There’s always room for improvement, of course, but we can’t question their pride, quality, and commitment.” – Spain coach Luis de la Fuente.

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