Euro 2012: Spain say bitter lessons of 2006 learned

Updated: 23 June 2012 22:00 IST

Spain would appear not to have too many lessons to learn from anyone, given that they came to Euro 2012 as world and European champion.

Euro 2012: Spain say bitter lessons of 2006 learned
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Gniewino:

Spain would appear not to have too many lessons to learn from anyone, given that they came to Euro 2012 as world and European champion.

They also did win their first stage group even if their form was not as effervescent as widely expected and demanded at home.

But having yet to beat France in a tournament the Spanish recognise they do have room for improvement - and are using their memories of a 2006 World Cup loss to the same opponents as a yardstick and a warning as they chase an unprecedented third straight success.

France have been something of a bogey team for the Spanish as Les Bleus have won five and drawn one of six competitive encounters to date.

The Spanish have not forgotten their 2006 world Cup last 16 loss when a French side they thought was past it beat them 3-1.

"I retain this image of the 2006 tournament - we underestimated the French as they were getting long in the tooth. It is a very Spanish trait not to pay attention to opponents," said coach Vicente Del Bosque - who took over two years after that loss.

This time, the Spanish are on their guard and humble.

"I think the French will be one of our toughest rivals in this competition," said midfielder Javi Martinez.

"France are a side who look to get the ball from the outset.

"From midfield onwards into attack they don't hang around but try quickfire passing and shooting. They are one of the toughest challenges we could have had. But we'll be looking to get the ball off them," said Martinez, a substitute in the 4-0 win over Ireland.

France slipped up against Sweden in their final Group D game when the Spanish might have expected to face England.

But "in the opening two games they showed some good stuff. In their third game they weren't so good - but the same thing happened to us with Croatia," said Javi Martinez.

The struggle to get past the Croatians has the Spanish doing a reality check as they try to adjust to their loss through injury of all-time top scorer David Villa, putting all the more pressure on Fernando Torres - who has responded with two goals, albeit against a weak Irish side.

Yet Spain can always fall back on their sheer quality, led as they are by a midfield containing Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Then there is that burning stated ambition, this time, to put the French in their place.

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