Laurent Blanc shrugged. The France coach had been talking for more than half an hour, explaining how difficult it would be to beat Spain and fending off questions about the dressing room row that followed his team's defeat against Sweden.

His admiration for Vicente del Bosque's team was clear and so was his intention to adapt France's game to counteract them. He described Spain as being "ahead" of France and admitted that his side would aim to stay in the game for as long as possible. Defence would be France's priority. He even talked of trying to "bore" them. It sounded very much like l'autobus was going to be parked.

Is that the measure, then, of just how strong Spain are, that even the best teams adapt to their game? Even France, who have never lost a competitive game to Spain. That was when Blanc shrugged. "You adapt to every team you face," he said, "but the question is: when do you adapt? You adapt when the other team have the ball.

"What's the problem? The problem is that Spain have the ball 60% or 70% of the time. They have the ball and won't give it back. You only have the ball for a third of the game. I can say 'we'll push these men up here' but maybe they'll end up down in the corner flag.

"Spain are going to have the ball, it is impossible to fight them for ball retention," Blanc explained. "Spain have been humble saying we're dangerous and a good side. I don't know if they were telling the truth, but at some stage we have to try to be dangerous. Yet we have to be careful of them. I usually say we have to adapt as little as possible to our opponents and play to our own strengths, but they are the best team in the world."

And yet Spain have come under criticism for their performances so far. Blanc's response said it all. "Oh come on," he said, smiling. "People may criticise the Spanish, but I wouldn't because from a fan's perspective, as a neutral, I love watching them. If people like football, they will all agree that it is a absolute delight to watch Spain. It is no coincidence that they have dominated football for a few years. People who criticise Spain's playing style are very demanding indeed.

"In terms of the way they play, they are ahead of us. We have to adapt to them. We've studied them well and there will be no surprises. I don't know if they will play with a traditional No9, but we do know how they'll play. Spain have a unique playing style and have dominated world football for four years. Everyone tries to stop them and no one has been able to. There are some signs that teams have been able to 'bore' them, though.

"Italy were incredibly solid, very effective. Those are two things that we are going to have to show. Some sides do not even have a chance against them: Croatia and Italy, playing different ways, at least had a chance. If you defend well against Spain, if you stay compact, if in the first 30 minutes you stay in the game, you will have chances. But you have to do that or you will be punished."

Blanc also insisted that France had successfully handled the aftermath of the dressing room arguments that followed the Sweden game. "We managed everything quite well," he said. "Our aim is that the [angry] reaction lasts as little time as possible, people wanted to let off steam. When there are raised voices, people's demons appear and people get worried that [the kind of conflicts that have hit France before] will happen again. You're disappointed, you're angry, there are heated exchanges and the temperature goes up so you try to calm it down. We did that.

"There is paradox: we are all angry but then you take a step back and think, 'Hang on, hang on, we've not packed the bags and we are not going home. We're in the quarter-finals against Spain.' We have to focus on that and that is exactly what we have done."