'France sterner test than England'
Spain's Euro 2012 quarterfinal opponents France are the toughest from Group D even though they finished second behind England after losing 2-0 to Sweden on Tuesday, according to coach Vicente del Bosque.
The world and European champions will perhaps be buoyed by a poor French performance against the Swedes but Spain have never beaten France in a competitive game and Les Bleus eliminated them from the 2006 World Cup en route to the final.
Del Bosque is expecting the French to try to gain early control of Saturday's clash in Donetsk.
"They are definitely the most difficult opponent of the three (France, England or Ukraine) we could have ended up with," Del Bosque told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope.
"They will play the way they know and try to seize the initiative," he said, adding that France's most talented players were striker Karim Benzema and playmakers Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri.
"I don't expect them to played defensively but their turn to defend will certainly come.
"Let's see what happens. The French do not suffer from any inferiority complex and neither will we."
After France's defeat by Sweden, Del Bosque's counterpart Laurent Blanc acknowledged that his players will need to significantly raise their game to get past the Spanish, who are bidding to become the first nation to win back-to-back continental titles with a World Cup in between.
"After such a game, it's hard to picture how we can beat Spain," Blanc said. "But we will fight. Croatia showed us how it can be done," he added, in reference to Spain's laboured 1-0 win over the Croats that sent them through as Group C winners.
The winners of the quarterfinal will meet Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal or the Czech Republic in the last four.