A game which saw the Spanish ease through to the last four without reaching second gear against an extremely poor french side. Two goals from ex-Liverpool player Xabi Alonso saw Spain set up a mouthwatering tie with Portugal in Donetsk.
The game was hyped up immensely by an expectant media for a ‘thriller’ tie but it was quite the opposite. The Spanish dominated the French all over the park from the first whistle and quite frankly made it very routine for Spain. I was expecting a backlash from Les Bleus after the defeat to Sweden in their final group game. Instead I witnessed a lack of desire, poor work rate and a team with far too many ego’s. After the embarrassing debacle in South Africa many thought the French were on a new chapter under Blanc but unfortunately it was the same old story.
I have to say when I saw the team sheets I was frankly bemused by both managers decisions. Spain had once again opted for a ‘no striker’ approach and the French fielded an incredibly defensive side. M’Vila would sit deep for France and it seemed Malouda’s inclusion was to stifle the fluidity in the Spanish midfield. For the Spanish, Fabregas would lead the line once more after scoring two in the tournament so far. The subs bench offered very little and made the substitutions very obvious to their opposition. Nasri was benched for the French and Torres was dropped for the Spaniards both of whom seemed bemused by the decision.
The first major talking point was a Spanish penalty claim after Fabregas was felled inside the box however the officials got it right. Replays showed that Fabregas went down far too easy under the slightest nudge. Furthermore he didnt seem to be reaching the lofted pass from Alonso anyway. Spain began to flex the muscles and were beginning to look very threatening on the French goal. Iniesta guided a smart pass onto the on rushing full-back Jordi Alba who left Debuchy with ease. A perfectly waited cross saw a free Alonso in the box who headed into the bottom right corner to put Spain in front. At first I thought it was just a piece of Spanish brilliance but thanks to Roy Keane at half time we can see Malouda (who was supposed to be picking up Alonso) wandering aimlessly around the pitch leaving Lloris with no chance. If I was Laurent Blanc I would have been very disappointed with the lack of reaction from Malouda, there was no hunger or desire from the Chelsea winger.
The French looked very average and looked to set pieces to grab an equaliser which they almost did after Cabaye’s free-kick was tipped over by Casillas. It was one of the very few French opportunities as they struggled to create scoring chances with their counter attacking set-up . On the other hand, Spanish chances were in abundance but they didnt seem to be able to find a second goal. The sound of the half time whistle must have been music to Blanc’s ears as the French could re-group and plan the second half.
The French improved marginally after the break however they didn’t seem together on the pitch. I saw eleven individuals who just wanted to go back to their clubs which was disappointing. A rare French chance was unsurprisingly wasted by Debuchy who has been linked with a transfer to Newcastle. To succeed in the Premier League he’ll really need to play better than he did last night. France’s night was epitomised by a truly awful Benzema who failed to register a goal at Euro 2012 which many saw as a real surprise. There would be one more twist in injury time as substitute Pedro was bundled to the ground by Reveillere. Alonso stepped up and blasted the ball into the net sending Lloris the wrong way completing an obismal evening for the French.
Before tonight the Spanish had never beaten the French in a competitive game and I admit I thought the French would give the Spaniards a real run for their money. How wrong I was. When the French watch this back all I can ensure is that they will be embarrassed. The didnt honour the shirt and one particular incident was just selfish. After the final whistle, Yann M’Vila sprinted onto the pitch in order to get Alonso’s shirt. You’ve just been beaten by Spain and your running onto the pitch like a young kid desperate for an autograph?
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