It's not a laughing matter when Spain and France clash tonight

Spain's Marc Cucurella reacts in their match against Germany. [AFP]

With five Euros titles between them, Spain and France face off in today’s semi-finals in Munich hoping to extend their respective bids for another triumph.

Spain could win a record-breaking fourth Euros crown while France would join the Spanish and Germany on three titles should they go all the way.

In the shadows of the Germans and Italians for much of the 20th century, France and Spain have become the two most successful nations at major tournaments in recent decades.

Since France won the World Cup in 1998, only four of 13 World Cup or Euros finals have featured neither of the two sides.

Spain have two Euros titles and a World Cup in that time, while France have become world champions twice and won Euro 2000.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the key battles between the two:

France’s absent attack versus Spain’s depleted defence

Top scorers with 16 goals at the 2022 World Cup, France have reached the Euro 2024 semi-finals without scoring themselves from open play. Superstar Kylian Mbappe has found the net just once, from the penalty spot, struggling with a mask after breaking his nose in their opening game against Austria.

France’s two other goals have been own goals. At Euro 2016, Antoine Griezmann scored six goals -twice as many as the next best player -and laid on two assists but has rarely threatened opposition defences in Germany.

If France are to break through however, today’s match may be the perfect opportunity against a depleted Spanish defence.

Pragmatic versus positive: Deschamps and de la Fuente

Today’s coaching duel shapes up not only as a clash of philosophy but a marked contrast in tone.

France’s Didier Deschamps, one of only three men to have won the World Cup as both player and manager, has taken Les Bleus to the finals of three of the past four major tournaments.

Blessed with more offensive depth than perhaps any other team at the tournament, Deschamps does not allow his attacking riches to run free, instead preferring defensive stability through a rigid adherence to structure and form.

The coach admitted as much in France’s qualification campaign, saying: “I am pragmatic and realistic and the players are aware of that too.”

Kante versus Rodri in midfield

Spain midfielder Rodri has a claim of being perhaps his side’s most important if unheralded player -a title N’Golo Kante carried for many years for France.

The Manchester City star provides control and calm in the middle of the pitch, allowing young wingers Yamine Lamal and Nico Williams to roam forward.

Kante’s energy and commitment has been a key part of France’s excellent decade, popping up across the field to shut down attacks, often before they begin.

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