Spain and the challenge of overcoming its nightmare called France

Spain and the challenge of overcoming its nightmare called France
Spain and the challenge of overcoming its nightmare called France

Mbappé, Zidane and Platini. A pair of legends and a footballer who for many is now the number one in the world. They are three names that have been etched into the history of the Spanish national team when it comes to their duels with France. Three stars who shattered the Spanish hopes at key moments in their history. In 36 encounters, Spain has won more games against France than vice versa (16-13), but when it comes to official matches… The Spanish national team is a real nightmare for La Roja.

Since 30 April 1922, when Spain won their first friendly match in Bordeaux 0-4, and until 10 October 2021, when Mbappé scored the decisive goal (2-1) that won France the Nations League, the two teams have met on 36 occasions. There were 26 friendly matches with a clear Spanish colour (14 wins, 5 draws and 7 French triumphs) and 10 official matches, of which La Roja only won two, compared to six for Les Bleus.

What’s more, of those ten official matches, six were in the finals (four in the Euros, one in the World Cup and one in the Nations League) and in all of them, the Spanish team only won once: in the quarter-finals of the 2012 Euros by 2-0 with two goals from Xabi Alonso. The team managed by Vicente del Bosque would end up taking the title, the last major trophy to date, and that match was a kind of revenge against all the disappointments suffered against a rival with whom they did not start their clashes until 1984… And who had won five of six matches, drawing the remaining one.


The tournament was held in France, and Spain qualified for the semi-finals in the last minute of the last match of the group stage, miraculously thanks to a goal from Maceda that eliminated West Germany. After beating Denmark in the semi-finals on penalties (5-4), the final saw them face the hosts in what was the first official duel between the two teams. The French won 2-0, with an incredible opening goal scored by Platini in the 57th minute from a direct free kick, the ball slipping in a strange way under the body of the Spanish goalkeeper, the legendary Luis Miguel Arconada. Bruno Bellone, in the last minute, sealed the final.


Placed in the same qualifying group for the 1992 European Championship, Spain,

The Spanish team, which had just been eliminated from the 1990 World Cup by Yugoslavia, had a mediocre play-off, losing to Czechoslovakia, Iceland… and twice to France, which would ultimately qualify for the tournament in Sweden. On 20 February 1991 at the Parc des Princes Sauzée, Papin and Blanc overturned Bakero’s initial 0-1 deficit and on 12 October of the same year, in Seville and with Spain already virtually eliminated after its failure in Iceland, Luis Fernández and Papin managed to gain an advantage that only Abelardo could shorten, but not equal. The fiasco took two coaches with it: Luis Suárez and Vicente Miera, who was replaced by Javier Clemente in 1992.


The group stage of the European Championship in England was a draw. Djorkaeff put the French team, led by Aimé Jacquet, through and Caminero equalised for Javier Clemente’s Spain shortly before the end. Both teams made it to the quarter-finals, the Spanish as runners-up, and that was where their journey ended, eliminated by the host England in the penalty shoot-out (4-2) after a controversial match ended in a goalless draw.


It was José Antonio Camacho’s first major tournament after succeeding Clemente and the usual disappointment. Spain, who had miraculously qualified for the group stage of the European Championship, which Belgium and the Netherlands shared as hosts, faced a world champion France led by Zidane, who put Les Bleus ahead after half an hour. Shortly afterwards, a penalty converted by Mendieta equalised the match… until Djorkaeff, on the stroke of half-time, scored the final 2-1 for the French, who would win the title a week later.


The World Cup in Germany, Luis Aragonés’ first major tournament as Spain’s coach, who after a first phase with a full house of points, met Raymond Domenech’s France in the round of 16, a team in which Zinedine Zidane said goodbye to football, having retired from Real Madrid at the end of the season. ‘We’re going to retire Zidane’ was published in the euphoric Spanish press on the day of a match in which Villa, from a penalty, put La Roja ahead before Ribéry, Vieira and Zidane himself turned the score around to send the Spanish home, with a taste of disappointment, while the French went all the way to the final, which they lost to Italy… with Zidane sent off.


Six years after the World Cup in Germany, Spain, European champion (2008) and world champion (2010), managed by Vicente del Bosque, faced France, coached by Laurent Blanc, in the quarter-finals of the European Championship organised by Poland and Ukraine. Two goals scored by Xabi Alonso gave La Roja the victory, and ten days after that match in Donetsk, they would win the trophy in kyiv.


The second edition of the Nations League, which began when the coronavirus was still a threat, led to the reunion in a final phase between the two teams. It was in the same final of the championship, played at the San Siro stadium in Milan and sealed by Mbappé ten minutes from the end, ending the French comeback after Oyarzabal’s opening goal that Benzema had equalised shortly after.


Year Tournament Result

1922 Friendly France 0-4 Spain

1923 Friendly Spain 3-0 France

1927 Friendly France 1-4 Spain

1929 Friendly Spain 8-1 France

1933 Friendly France 1-0 Spain

1935 Friendly Spain 2-0 France

1942 Friendly Spain 4-0 France

1949 Friendly France 1-5 Spain

1955 Friendly Spain 1-2 France

1958 Friendly France 2-2 Spain

1959 Friendly France 4-3 Spain

1961 Friendly Spain 2-0 France

1961 Friendly France 1-1 Spain

1963 Friendly Spain 0-0 France

1968 Friendly France 1-3 Spain

1971 Friendly Spain 2-2 France

1978 Friendly France 1-0 Spain

1981 Friendly Spain 1-0 France

1983 Friendly France 1-1 Spain

1984 Euro Cup, Final France 2-0 Spain

1988 Friendly France 2-1 Spain

1991 Euro Cup, France 3-1 Spain

1991 Euro Cup, Qualifier Spain 1-2 France

1996 Euro Cup, FG France 1-1 Spain

1998 Friendly France 1-0 Spain

2000 Euro Cup, 1/4 France 2-1 Spain

2001 Friendly Spain 2-1 France

2006 World Cup, 1/8 France 3-1 Spain

2008 Friendly Spain 1-0 France

2010 Friendly France 0-2 Spain

2012 Euro Cup, 1/4 Spain 2-0 France

2012 World Cup, Spain 1-1 France

2013 World Cup, France 0-1 Spain Qualifier

2014 Friendly France 1-0 Spain

2017 Friendly France 0-2 Spain

2021 Nations L, Final Spain 1-2 France

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