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Euro 2012: Spain breeze past the French to secure a Semi Final spot against Portugal

A Xabi Alonso double secured a semi final spot for the Spanish, where they will face Paulo Bento’s Portugal side on Wednesday.

Spain began the game without a known striker, Cesc Fabregas being the furthest forward of a midfield six. Whilst averaging 64.9% possession so far in the tournament it wasn’t a surprise to see Spain with the majority of the ball in the first half. They settled into the first half briskly, dominating possession, whilst fluent and creative when coming forward. Barcelona duo Xavi and Iniesta pulled the strings in the midfield, whilst Sergio Busquets and Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso anchored and mopped up the few French attacks that formed.

Spain took the lead in the 19th minute when Iniesta slid a pass to the highly rated left back Jordi Alba, who easily rounded Debuchy, picking out Xabi Alonso at the back post with a perfectly weighted ball. Alonso calmly guided the ball with his head back across Lloris into the side netting.

France posed little threat and lined up very defensively, starting without Samir Nasri. Laurent Blanc’s men set up to suppress the Spanish and when in possession couldn’t keep the ball for any length of time. The closest they came to goal in the first half, came about through a well struck free kick by Yohan Cabaye, which Iker Casillas tipped over. It seemed as though France almost conceded the first half to the Spanish, happy to keep the one goal difference in tact.

The second half showed a marginal improvement from the French and when Franck Ribery created a bit of space to cross for Mathieu Debuchy, he could only head over the bar. The Spanish mentality of keeping the ball took the sting out of the rare French attacks and the game seemed to die out.

Spain took a two goal lead in the 90th minute, when Anthony Reveillere brought down Pedro, the Barcelona winger rounding him with a delightful step-over, before being clipped. Xabi Alonso on his 100th performance for Spain, stepped up and dispatched the penalty into the bottom left corner of the goal to round off a miserable evening in Donetsk for the French.

The current European champions face a very strong Portuguese side, captained by Cristiano Ronaldo, on Wednesday in Donetsk. With the majority of the Barcelona squad playing in La Liga, they will be aware of Ronaldo’s threat which they will have to suppress if they are going to have a shot at retaining the Championship in Kiev on the 1st of July.

 

Alex Taylor

 

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