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Spain vs. France at Euro 2024 is a semifinal matchup of two soccer cultures deeply influenced by each other

Published on Jul, 08 2024

Tuesday's UEFA Euro 2024 semifinal between Spain and France is not only a meeting between two of European soccer's leading forces and two of the favorites to ultimately finish as champions. It is also a meeting between two countries that have culturally shared links and impacted the sporting fabric of each other's domestic leagues. Historically, Spain-born talent such as Luis Fernandez and talent of Spanish descent like Michel Hidalgo have played key roles in Les Bleus' successes of the past. 

 

Fast-forward to the modern day and Kylian Mbappe is Real Madrid-bound and will be meeting his new audience while former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Ousmane Dembele spent a number of years as a headline act for Barcelona before returning home to the French capital. On the Spanish side, Dembele's current Parisien teammate Fabian Ruiz has been an unexpected star turn for La Roja at this Euro and represents the quartet of Spaniards under the command of former national team head coach Luis Enrique with Marco Asensio, Carlos Soler and Arnau Tenas also on the roster.

Let's take a look at the French elements featuring prominently with Spain and the Spanish influence that has helped to shape this France side.

 
 

Aymeric Laporte

Marshalling the Spanish defence in Germany is France-born Aymeric Laporte who was considered a solution to Didier Deschamps' defensive uncertainties only to ultimately declare for La Roja at senior level instead of Les Bleus. Born in Agen which is close to the French region of the Basque Country, the 30-year-old came through the professional ranks with local powerhouse Athletic Club and set down roots during that period which have shaped his feeling of identifying with Spain over France at international level. Despite sharing his first ever club with Deschamps who hails from Bayonne and even has local outfit Aviron Bayonnais' stadium named after him, their mutual history was not enough to stop Laporte from swapping France for Spain despite captaining his birth nation at youth level and later going on to join Manchester City.

 

Antoine Griezmann

Even more curious is France-born but Spain-raised Antoine Griezmann who is a key figure with Les Bleus under Deschamps yet has played his entire senior soccer career in the Spanish system. The 33-year-old hails from Macon but was deemed too small and not physical enough at youth level which eventually pushed him towards Real Sociedad's youth academy at such a young age that he has qualified for Basque second nationality thanks to his time in the Txuriurdin's youth ranks. Griezmann was never allowed to even flirt with the idea of declaring for Spain as his talent was too great but disciplinary in his very earliest years in the French setup could have enabled that change. Instead, the Atletico Madrid man who is in his second spell under Diego Simeone's tutelage is now something of a Franco-Spanish hybrid figure who openly identifies with South American culture thanks to his immersion with Atleti.

 

Robin Le Normand

Sociedad have not only influenced France's current XI, though, as they have also enabled French talent to ho the other way and serve Spain's national team. Normally at this Euro, Laporte is part of a 100% France-born central defensive unit as Robin Le Normand has also followed his lead and declared for La Roja albeit with no real history at youth level with his birth homeland. The 27-year old has been in Spain for eight years and joined Sociedad's academy from Stade Brestois 29 before the age of 20 and his consistent performances with Athletic Club's Basque rivals did not go unnoticed. The Spanish solved their central defensive issues by capitalising on France's excess of talent, but this is one player who will not be able to come back and haunt Deschamps in Munich this midweek -- he is suspended for this crucial final four clash after his booking in the win over Germany which is a blow for Luis de la Fuente's back line plans.

 

Theo and Lucas Hernandez

Another player likely to be involved heavily who has also benefitted from the crossover between these two great talent-rich nations is Theo Hernandez who usually is part of a package deal with his brother Lucas. The Milan man has been a key element at this Euro for Deschamps on the left side of the defence but his PSG-based sibling was desperately unlucky in getting injured as the French titleholders fell short in the UEFA Champions League having already suffered heartache in 2022 with injury at the Qatar World Cup. Marseille-born, like his slightly older brother, it is only Lucas who has played in their shared country of birth -- for now -- with both coming through the ranks in Madrid with Griezmann's Atleti before going their separate ways.

 

Theo's adventure has taken him across the Spanish capital divide with Real and then on to Italy with Serie A giants Milan alongside current French teammate and Les Bleus' No. 1 Mike Maignan. Lucas would have boosted PSG's France national team quota up further to six players given Mbappe started the tournament as a Parisien alongside now ex-teammates Dembele, Bradley Barcola, Randal Kolo Muani and Warren Zaire-Emery although Maignan, Kingsley Coman and Alphonse Areola also came through the capital club's youth academy. Neither Theo nor Lucas sampled French domestic club soccer in their youth, though, which made Lucas' decision to join Paris despite hailing from Marseille a controversial topic until his performances silenced the critics.

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