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No hard feelings as Spain meet France

Juanfran maintains that the seven Spain players who featured in a 3-1 loss to France at the 2006 FIFA World Cup do not "bear any particular grudge" as the neighbours meet again.

Juanfran addresses the media at Spain's Gniewino training base
Juanfran addresses the media at Spain's Gniewino training base ©AFP/Getty Images

One of the most appetising parts of the build up to a big match is the history the participating sides may have between them. France's game against Spain in Donetsk on Saturday is no exception.

If you ask many around the current European champions' squad they will say the 3-1 defeat by Les Bleus at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was a significant milestone on their road to glory. La Roja are yet to beat their northern neighbours in a competitive match, but having led against Raymond Domenech's Zinédine Zidane-powered side, the injustice felt by Luis Aragonés and his men helped fuel their successful push for glory in Austria/Switzerland four years ago.

However, defender Juanfran, one of the surprise inclusions in Vicente del Bosque's UEFA EURO 2012 squad, does not subscribe to the idea that there is still a thirst for sporting revenge in the Spain team. "Being eliminated by France in that World Cup was a really sad day," the 27-year-old recalled. "I remember clearly watching it at home and despite David Villa giving us the lead France fought back to beat us.

"A match against France has always been a massive occasion for Spain but this is not anything to do with revenge – it's not as if the seven players who lost on that day who are still with us bear any particular grudge," added the Club Atlético de Madrid man. "The more important fact is that we all want to reach the semi-final. This is a very ambitious squad."

The Real Madrid CF-trained winger, converted to play right wing-back at Atlético, has aspirations of his own to get some competitive minutes here in Poland and Ukraine, and the depth of his ambition is clear: "There are three matches left, because I expect us to get to the final, and that means I've got more chance to play."

Fellow defender Javi Martínez, who accompanied Juanfran in addressing a busy media conference in Gniewino, added an appreciation of Spain's rivals. "France are one of the teams most willing and able to fight for possession," said the Athletic Club man. "They have fast, creative players and they will want to play a little rather than just packing the defence; they will be one of the most difficult rivals to overcome at this tournament.

"Even if both teams really want to play football and battle for possession, we'd all be quite happy to repeat what we managed in the [2010] World Cup, when we won all of our knockout games 1-0."