France take on Russia for the third semi-final place: listen to the tracks, vote in the poll.

How to vote: Just tick the track you like the most. Because I’m going on a mini-break at the end of the week this poll will be up until Monday 16th. If you download the tracks, please take the time to vote!

France v Russia: Which of these tracks do you prefer? [ballot]

  • France: Najoua Belyzel 82%
  • Russia: Alsou 18%

Total Voters: 22

Poll closes: 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:36

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FRANCE: Najoua Belyzel – “Gabriel”

The manager says: “This was tough, since we had a big, big selection problem – several young, hungry players forced to sit in the stand, shrugging disdainfully. In the end, we couldn’t ignore the claims of this youngster, mostly because of several great performances on the training pitch, or Alysons IPOD as we lovingly refer to it. To paraphrase Charles Barkley, we don’t know nothing about Russia, cept Russia’s in trouble! Vive La France!”

Our analyst says: France’s slow start in this tournament may have been a blessing: they’re hitting form now at the right time – this is a very capable team, playing an attacking pop formation in support of a skilful and dangerous frontline. France are being tipped as tournament favourites and this may be the game where they start living up to that tag.

RUSSIA: Alsou – “Before You Love Me”

The manager says: “I’ve always considered this to be Russia’s best ever pop song, even beating t.A.t.u, but I haven’t played it so far because I was avoiding posting something people may know already. However, as it’s been a long time since it was out in the UK, and it was hardly a raging success, I’m going to take that chance and see what happens. Alsou is one of Russia’s top pop ladies, was in Eurovision with an ace song called Solo in 2000, married a millionaire Mountain Jew in 2006, and was (rather randomly) in a low-budget English thriller movie alongside Billie Piper in 2004! Before You Love Me is super-catchy, cute and utterly poptastic, actually something Billie (or Britney) might have released in her early career i.e. very Max Martin. The chorus exemplifies that era of pop perfectly. I’d love to know who actually wrote and produced it, but so far my Googling only took me back to my own blog!”

Our analyst says: Russia, like France, are believers in classic pop tactics and as the manager herself admits, this selection owes a lot to the Swedish coaching methods that revolutionised the international scene at the turn of the decade. Always a pleasure to see a team play this way, and Russia do it well, but I wonder if they have the flair needed to progress.

MATCH REPORT: Poland 2 Portugal 3 (aet) Two evenly matched sides contested one of the games of the tournament, with Portugal needing to take the lead three times to defeat a feisty Poland side. Portugal’s mix of aggression and skill was ultimately just enough to take them to a semi-final against Switzerland: Poland are left to reflect on a great tournament.

Coming Next: Greece and Italy contest the fourth quarter final. Greece topped their group by playing patiently against opponents prone to self-destruct. Italy meanwhile have put some extremely talented sides in the field but flirted with disaster in a heavy defeat to France. Both managers face a difficult choice between flair and pragmatism in Thursday’s game (which will also end on the 16th).