While still in the competition, neither side has been able to escape a sense of disillusion. The anxieties must seem novel to the defending champions, particularly since the general view before the tournament was that too many of their players had barely had a break in the past four years and that tiredness might be their greatest enemy in the quest to become the first country to win three consecutive major tournaments.
For France, the commotions are more familiar. The dressing room was the scene of a series of conflicts in after the 2-0 defeat to Sweden last Tuesday. They included Hatem Ben Arfa rowing with coach Laurent Blanc and Alou Diarra and Samir Nasri arguing about the latter's lack of defensive work. Internecine conflict is not uncommon to the French squad, since their 2010 World Cup campaign was consumed by squabbling.
Blanc had purged much of the bad blood after taking over from Raymond Domenech, but the loss to Sweden revived some old feuds. Flare-ups are inevitable in the confines of a three-week international tournament and the aplomb of France's displays in the opening two games should not be obscured by a fit of pique after a defeat, even if it did consign Blanc's team to second place in Group D behind England.
A greater concern for him will be the need to pair Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny at centre-back for only the second time. Given the erratic nature of Philippe Mexes' displays, his suspension is not a significant hindrance, but a lack of understanding between Rami and Koscielny is an issue for the coach.
Blanc has adeptly pulled the factions of the squad together, but there will always be complications when such strong-headed figures as Karim Benzema, Nasri and Franck Ribery are jockeying for prominence. The French looked sleek and focused during their opening two games, and there is enough accomplishment, as well as ego, in the squad to believe they can prevail in the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
But even a country that were world champions as recently as 1998, then European champions two years later, is still capable of being struck by a sense of inferiority. "Do we fear Spain? Yes and no," Koscielny said. "We were below par on every level against Sweden. When we got back to the dressing room we knew we hadn't done what we had to do and some things were said. Now we have to turn the page. We were unbeaten in 23 games, so I don't see why we should throw all that away. Spain and Barcelona resemble each other and it can help me in the match to know that I've already faced players who play for Barcelona."
For Spain, as European and world champions, and a team with a reputation for being impeccably and grandly superior, the expectation is always that they will browbeat opponents with a sense of style. Vicente Del Bosque remains a phlegmatic figure, but he spent the night after his team's 1-0 win over Croatia watching the game again in full, after post-match criticism of their display.
There were similar brickbats after the 1-1 draw with Italy in the opening Group C game, when Del Bosque played Cesc Fabregas as a withdrawn forward and so essentially sent his side out without a recognised striker. Fernando Torres has since rediscovered something of his flourish, but the players are not considered paragons by their own press. The demand is always for utter command, of opponents and games, and the expectations can be stifling. "I don't understand the criticisms," said Victor Valdes, the Barcelona goalkeeper. "Our rivals know us better than they used to but having said that, results speak for themselves. Del Bosque has got it right so far, so we need to all pull together."
A Croatia goal would have knocked Spain out, but there is always a looming threat of failure when a competition reaches its decisive phase. The players are unlikely to buckle under the pressure, since most of them operate with the same expectations at club level, but some have admitted feeling a sense of fatigue.
Spain's hold on the higher values of the game has become a defining trait, but maintaining such idealism can be draining. Del Bosque might welcome the more mundane task of choosing between Alvaro Arbeloa, the Real Madrid right-back, who has looked out of sorts, and Juanfran, a more attacking wing-back, for the detail of marking Ribery. "To us, everything seems to taste of not very much," Del Bosque said. "We have gone from poor to rich very quickly and we don't value what we have."
The two quarter-finalists seem a little forlorn, but the challenge of their encounter will revive them.