Spain’s new era started with defeat as a Loïc Rémy goal gave France a 1-0 victory in Thursday’s friendly at the Stade de France. In what was Spain’s first outing since crashing out of the World Cup group stage as holders, a side without the likes of Xavi and Xabi Alonso and featuring three debutantes, suffered some early teething problems against a France team that continued to build on the optimism created in Brazil. New Chelsea striker Rémy swept the ball home following a lovely flowing move 17 minutes from time for what was a deserved lead, particularly given that Karim Benzema had earlier seen a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside. Following a quarterfinal berth at the World Cup when they regained the support of many in their own country, there were again signs that France will be a major force on home soil at Euro 2016.
Unlike for the hosts, for Spain the match acted as high-profile preparation for the start of their qualifying campaign against Macedonia next Monday. While coach Vicente del Bosque remained in charge following the World Cup disaster, he hinted there will be major changes in personnel. Against France, Athletic Bilbao’s Mike San José made his first international appearance in a back line also featuring fellow debutante Dani Carvajal. It was a defense that had some difficulty against a French side that produced some eye-catching moments, chiefly thanks to the skills of Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema also impressed and tested David de Gea in the Spain goal with a low shot from a tight angle early on.
France could also count on the midfield dynamism of Paul Pogba and Moussa Sissoko, who helped provide the kind of forward thrust that their opponents lacked. In the first match since the international retirements of midfield duo Alonso and Xavi, Koke and Cesc Fàbregas started alongside Sergio Busquets behind a forward trio of Diego Costa, Raul Garcia and Santi Cazorla. While Spain predictably had the better of possession there was little incision until substitute David Silva inspired a late rally.
France’s attacking superiority should have been rewarded early in the second half when Benzema put the finishing touch to a sweeping move. But, despite being behind the ball when Pogba supplied a low cross, the Real Madrid front man saw his strike ruled out. Still, the hosts soon got their goal following some more fine combination play. Sissoko flicked a Benzema pass into the path of the always involved Valbuena, who pulled the ball back perfectly for substitute Rémy to strike first time inside De Gea’s near post.