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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spain Aims To Hamper France's Star Midfielder

TEGELEN, Netherlands -- Stop Zidane!

Neutralizing France's midfield master Zinedine Zidane is the key to defeating the reigning world champions on Sunday and shipping Spain to the semifinals of the European Championship, Spanish players said Friday.

"France is a great unit ? but the player I like best is Zidane. He always makes good passes, has good control, he has everything," said Real Madrid right fullback defender Michel Salgado. "He has that magic touch that other players don't.

"If we manage to stop him and make sure he doesn't get in too many good passes, I reckon we can cut off [Nicolas] Anelka and [Thierry] Henry.

"They depend a lot on his passes; they always set themselves up to wait for them," said Salgado, who is a teammate of Anelka at Madrid.

Spain admits that France is the clear favorite heading into Sunday's match in the Belgian town of Bruges, where the Spaniards won their quarterfinal berth with a thrilling 4-3 Group C victory over Yugoslavia on Wednesday.

"They're the favorites. They're the only champion left in the finals," said Salgado, who added that his teammates felt it an honor to play World Cup holder France and were full of enthusiasm going into the game.

But the side is adamant it won't cower or play defensively.

"We're not a team to play back and, if we were to start doing it now, it would surely go all wrong," said Salgado's left side counterpart, Sergi Barjuan of FC Barcelona. "We're a team that tends toward entertaining, attacking football."

With veteran Real Madrid and Spanish captain Fernando Hierro doubtful through injury, Salgado and Sergi are likely to team up with central defenders Abelardo Fernandez and Paco Jemez to try to cancel out Zidane and strikers Henry and Anelka.

"We have to be very careful in the midfield because Zidane always looks to get all his passes to the two strikers. If our defense stays too much forward and we leave too much of a gap between us and the goal, Anelka and Henry can cause us a lot of damage," Salgado said.

On Friday, Camacho practiced with the four defenders, and midfielder Josep Guardiola simulated midfield moves to try counter Zidane's playing style.

Overall, Spain has beaten France 10 times, lost nine and drawn six. But it has never defeated it in official competition. The last time it actually won was in 1981, when current coach Jose Antonio Camacho was in the lineup.

The last time they met, France won 1-0 in a friendly to inaugurate the Saint Denis stadium in Paris in 1998, where the side was to win its first World Cup.

Spain has won just one trophy, the 1964 European Championship. The side is also dubbed a major underachiever for its inability to get beyond the quarterfinals, the last time being in Euro '84.



Saturday's games

Portugal vs. Turkey 8 p.m.

Italy vs. Romania 10:45 p.m.

Sunday's games

Netherlands vs. Yugoslavia 8 p.m.

Spain vs. France 10:45 p.m.