12 years ago France beat Spain in a thrilling Euro 2000 quarter-final with goals from Youri Djorkaeff and legendary figure Zinedine Zidane. Raul then blazed a last minute penalty over the bar for Spain as France marched on to take a classic Euro 2000 final against Italy 2-1 with a golden goal from David Trezeguet after Sylvain Wiltord had equalised in injury time. Zidane was named player of that tournament and was acclaimed as one the best players ever. He went on to guide France to another final, this time in the 2006 World Cup where they again met Italy but lost on penalties after Zidane scored and then was sent off. A lot has changed in French football since that day in Berlin. At both Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 all they could manage was one point and bottom spot in their group.
After World Cup 2010 France embarked on a programme to try to restore themselves as one of Europe's footballing powerhouses in the wake of player unrest and revolt. Much-maligned manager Raymond Domenech was replaced by former defender Laurent Blanc and the French started to try to replicate the possession football of the 'golden generation' a few years before. Now much has changed since 2006 and on Zidane's 40th birthday the French will attempt to play as they did in 2006 when they beat Spain 3-1 in the last 16; a win courtesy of the style of play that Spain are now famous for. Spain the reigning European and World champions will have plenty to say about that as they endeavour to continue to become the first nation to win three major tournaments in a row.
Spain play with seven Barcelona players and may play without a recognised striker in the team; as they did in the opening match against Italy. Cesc Fabregas may play as the furthest man forward with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Silva and Xabi Alonso behind him. However Fernando Torres has shown signs of a return to form and he will be hoping to lead the attack in the absence of the injured David Villa. France have started to play very good passing football with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema the focal point of their forward line. Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye has continued on from a good season in England with good performances in the centre so far this tournament while France look relatively settled at the back. France's win over Ukraine was their first win in a major finals since 2006 and were unbeaten in 23 matches before their defeat to Sweden.
Spain will rightly go into this match as favourites but have not hit top form yet in Poland and Ukraine and France will fancy their chances of setting up a semi-final with Portugal. This quarter-final should be another great game in the latest episode in France and Spain's long footballing series.