Vicente del Bosque has warned Spain that they will be punished for any lack of professionalism when they take on France in Donetsk, telling them to make sure they have no superiority complex.
The coach urged his players not to expect the French to “defend all the time and wait for us to do something”, saying Les Bleus have players who can take the initiative and punish his side.
He said there was no reason to believe Spain were favourites just because they are the defending champions and stressed that France’s Group D defeat to Sweden - which sparked an angry row in the French camp - “does not really tell us much”.
“Everyone speaks highly of Spain when they play against us, but we shouldn't be complacent,” he said. “I remember the comments that came out six years ago where they said that we were playing against a languishing France, and they ended up knocking us out [of the 2006 World Cup with a 3-1 win].
“It is impossible to beat anyone if we believe we are superior. Everyone thinks we are favourites because we won the Euros four years ago and the World Cup two years ago, but there is evidence that France are better in competitive matches. But we have to think about the present and not the past.
“France have players who can take the initiative. I don't think they'll hang back as much as the Croatians [who Spain beat 1-0 in their final group game]. They're better at playing the ball out of defence and taking the initiative. I wish it were the case, but I can't see Nasri, Ribery and Benzema hanging back.
“The French coach is a good coach with good players at his disposal, [but] if we have a good moment, we can beat them. We are modest, but still optimistic.”
Del Bosque indicated that no final decision had been made on his line-up to face the French, having again played a formation without a recognised striker once Fernando Torres had been taken off against Croatia.
“I have always had 23 great players who are important for their clubs, and I can't use all of them,” he said. “It would be bad not to have any selection doubts. We have stable form and a stable team, and alternatives for every position.”