View from Spain: Puppet talk dominates Spanish face-off with France

LLL had always felt that Spain’s relationship with France was not too dissimilar to that of England and their Gallic neighbours – sort of nice to beat them in sporting events if we can, decent cheese, get on fairly well apart from the odd niggle here and there.

It seems that the sand has shifted because when the blog probed a Spanish colleague for his thoughts on France ahead of the quarter-final this weekend, the potty-mouthed response was to announce that they are enemy No.1 and a country stuffed full of unrepeatable so-and-so’s. Incidentally, England is only just behind France, due to the whole Gibraltar business, which the locals are still a little bit sore over.

France’s rapid move to top the hit-list – if they weren’t already there – is pretty much down to a French satirical puppet show called Les Guignols which has a naughty habit of portraying Spain’s sporting heroes clutching a blood bag, waving big needles or having Rafa Nadal filling up his car with his own urine. The most recent pee-take had The Avengers being defeated by the super-powered might of Spanish sport. 

LLL definitely doesn’t know what the Frenchies are implying there and isn’t even going to attempt to speculate. However the whole affair did cause an actual, proper diplomatic incident recently. “Don’t be angry with us, it’s a joke!” claimed the show’s head, Lionel Dutemple, in an interview in Friday’s AS which takes more prominence in the paper than a chat with a certain Andrés Iniesta.

Marca have gone off on another tangent, powering up the Photoshop to call up the spirit of Nadal – not that he’s passed away, as far as the blog can tell – by jamming the mutant-armed one’s head onto the bodies of all the Spain players, in reference to the tennis player winning some kind of tournament in Paris recently. To be fair, it all seems a bit unnecessary as it’s not as if the footballers themselves have been unsuccessful of late.

Earlier this week a boastful Marca claimed that the French “didn’t want to see us” in the quarter-finals – but went on to undermine the argument somewhat by pointing out the Spanish have never beaten their northerly neighbours in a competitive game.

Indeed, Spain’s record in six matches is five defeats and a draw. Along the way there have been some pretty low moments too, such as the 2006 World Cup knockout inspired by Zinedine Zidane, possibly in turn inspired by a Marca front page informing the Frenchman that Spain were about to "retire" him.

Er, no.

Over on AS, Tomás Roncero thinks France are the perfect opposition to give La Roja a bit of a gee-up. “The English don’t have any pending cases with us, except Gibraltar,” notes the columnist. “This Spanish team needs a challenge. You have it there [with France]."

It seems in Spain that a semi-final meeting with Portugal may not be motivation enough for La Roja to get their juices flowing, so the press have activated an English tabloid-style rabble-rousing. However, with talk of a few grumbles in the French dressing room, LLL is confident that extra help won’t be needed: on the cards is a 2-0 win for Vicente del Bosque’s men – and the tantalising sight on the horizon of a Sergio Ramos v Cristiano Ronaldo Thunderdome challenge match.