Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spain 2-0 France - Xabi Alonso double downs France at Euro 2012


Spain will play Portugal in the semi-finals of Euro 2012 after they beat France 2-0 on Saturday night.

Xabi Alonso of Spain scores the first goal past Hugo Lloris of France during the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between Spain and France at Donbass Arena on June 23, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine (credit: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Spain dominated possession early on and felt they should have had a penalty inside the first ten minutes when Xabi Alonso's ball over the top was met by Cesc Fabregas - preferred to striker Fernando Torres in the starting line-up - who went down under a challenge from Gael Clichy, only for referee Nicola Rizzoli to rule it was not a foul.

France slowly started to settle, but it was Vicente del Bosque's side who took the lead when Andres Iniesta played in Jordi Alba down the Spain left, with the Valencia full-back crossing to the back post, where Alonso headed back across goal and into the back of the net after 19 minutes.

Laurent Blanc's side created very little in the first half, with a Yohan Cabaye free-kick that was well saved by Iker Casillas the closest they went to scoring an equaliser.

France made a slightly better start to the second half, but as the game passed the hour mark, they had created very little in the final third, and were giving the ball away far too easily.

Unsurprisingly, Spain were having no such problems with passing the ball around, but most of their play was taking place in the middle of the pitch as the game started to go a bit flat.

France had a good chance to make it 1-1 when Ribery crossed for Mathieu Debuchy, who headed narrowly over the bar, as Les Bleus started to ask more of the reigning champions.

Both sides made changes with 25 minutes to go. Spain brought Pedro on for David Silva and Fernando Torres for Fabregas, while France brought on Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez for Florent Malouda and Debuchy respectively.

Spain started to look more lively again and went close through Torres, who looked sharp. In contrast, France continued to offer very little going forward.

Blanc brought on Arsenal-bound striker Olivier Giroud for the final 15 minutes as France looked for a late equaliser, but Spain had rarely looked troubled, and sealed their place in the final four when Pedro was brought down in the penalty area and Alonso converted the resulting spot-kick in the 90th minute.

Overall, it was a comfortable, if at times unimpressive, victory for Spain. For France, it was arguably one of the weakest performances seen by any team at Euro 2012.
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