performances at Euro 2012 have drawn criticism back home in
Spain and France will be looking to dangerous winger Franck
Ribery to exploit his potential weakness in Saturday's Euro 2012
Arbeloa has occasionally looked shaky at right-back in
Spain's three Group C games in Gdansk, particularly against
forwards like Ribery with pace and trickery, prompting calls for
coach Vicente del Bosque to replace him with Juanfran.
A far more attack-minded player who is solid in defence,
Juanfran is better at forging down the flank and firing over
dangerous crosses than Arbeloa, which would have the added bonus
of forcing Ribery to drop deeper to defend.
However, Del Bosque is unlikely to gamble on a player who
only made his Spain debut at the end of May and he will almost
certainly keep faith with Arbeloa, set to make his 39th
appearance for his country in Donetsk.
At a news conference at Spain's training base in Gniewino,
northern Poland on Thursday, Juanfran gave his full backing to
Arbeloa but said he was ready to step up if needed.
"He is my team-mate and I will defend him to the death," the
"Right now the coach has placed his trust in Alvaro for that
position and I have enormous respect for that," he added.
"He has my confidence and the confidence of the whole team.
He played well in the group stage in my opinion and had a very
good season at Real Madrid."
Whoever is tasked with marking Ribery, the world and
European champions will have to be on top of him from the start
as they seek a place in the last four against Portugal or the
Czech Republic, Juanfran said.
Ribery limped out of training on Wednesday with a burst
blister but a team spokesman said he should be fit as France
seek to defend their unbeaten record against the Spanish in
competitive matches, winning five and drawing one.
"At any moment [Ribery] can create a scoring chance for
himself or provide an assist," Juanfran said.
"He is one of France's most important players and we just
hope he doesn't have a good day and that we know how to stop
both him and his fellow attackers."
Midfielder Javi Martinez said the mood in the Spanish camp
was "very positive" and confidence was high after they topped
Group C ahead of Italy, Croatia and Ireland.
"We have had tough moments of course but we knew it would
not be easy," he said.
"We came through a difficult group in first place and I
think we have drawn strength from that."
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