MALOUDA: OUT OF THE BLOCKS
As France prepare to take on Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, Florent Malouda has spoken about the importance of getting off to a good start against the current world and European champions.
Laurent Blanc's side go into the game coming off the back of 2-0 defeat against Sweden on Tuesday night, a match in which they failed to hit the high standards they have grown accustomed to of late, but Malouda remains adamant his team, who were last crowned kings of Europe in 2000, possess more than enough quality to spring a surprise.
'It's possible,' said the Chelsea midfielder. 'We respect Spain a lot - they have been setting the standards for the rest of the world for six years - but whenever we come into a competition we do everything we can to win it. We didn't show up against Sweden, but we'll make the changes we need to make to beat Spain.
'When you play Spain, you have to be tactically disciplined to deny them space. They're technically outstanding. They're all comfortable with the ball and they can control possession.
'We have to defend well as a team, but that alone won't be enough to win. We also have to use our own qualities, which means penetrating when we attack, keeping the ball well, and taking our chances. If we score first then some doubt might creep into their minds.'
Malouda and Franck Ribery are the only remaining members from the France side which beat Spain 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup, the last time Vicente Del Bosque's team were beaten at a major tournament.
He admitted, however, that, due to personnel, his national team will need to adopt a different philosophy to the one used by Chelsea en-route to Champions League success if they are to stand a realistic chance of progressing to the semi-finals.
'Looking at the three games we've had here, I don't think we're capable of playing that way,' said the man who has been capped 79 times by his country.
'We don't have players who can maintain that level of tactical discipline. We're not a team that enjoys sitting back and soaking up pressure. We like to have the ball. Spain do too, so it's going to be a big test.'
Tomorrow night's game will be a case of friends reunited, when the 32-year-old comes up against his club teammate Fernando Torres, and having witnessed the manner in which the Spanish striker ended the domestic season at close quarters, as well as the brace he scored in Spain's 4-0 win over Republic of Ireland last week, he believes the French defence will need to be at their very best to keep the striker at bay.
'Fernando finished the season strongly with great determination,' said Malouda. 'He has a lot of desire to show he is still one of the world's best strikers.
'The Euros are a perfect showcase for him to prove this and return to Chelsea an even stronger player.
'It will be very difficult for us because in Fernando we meet a player who has won the previous European Championship and the World Cup.
'He can score two or three goals and makes great runs for his teammates. Fernando will be a true menace - we must make sure he does not shine.'