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Going into the game, Spain hadn’t won against France in a competitive tournament in their history. France entered the game with their 23 match streak broken after a 2-0 loss to Sweden in group stages.
Vicente Del Bosque went with an interesting lineup comprising of no strikers and Cesc Fabregas playing the false nine role yet again. The starting XI comprised of the usual back four in Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba. Up ahead were Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta in a 4-6-0 formation. Oddly enough, Spain had the luxury to go for the kill from the get go as France were stretched in defence before the game started.
To make things even trickier for themselves, Laurent Blanc started without Samir Nasri which reduced France’s attacking options. Most of the attacks were built by Frank Ribery who was in brilliant form but he had no real support with him to get behind Spain’s defence which can be lacklustre at times.
Cesc Fabregas had a penalty call turned down in the 6th minute as he was brought down by Gael Clichy but on further viewing it looked too soft and more of a coming together than anything else.
Spain didn’t have to wait too long for a goal though. David Silva fed Jordi Alba down the left hand side and the Valencia man provided an inch perfect cross for Xabi Alonso to head Spain in. Alonso with a perfect header in keeping the ball down making it extremely difficult for Lloris in goal. Alonso thereby coming the first Spaniard to score on his 100th game.
Thereafter it was more of Spain keeping possession than creating chances. This style of playing was sensational and interesting at first but as time went on, it became dull as the passing was more of a training session than an attempt to score more to put the game past France. France on it’s own weren’t helping their cause either. The attack wasn’t clicking and the French didn’t look like a “team”. Passing was non existent and whenever it worked, there was no end product despite Frank Ribery providing his usual trickery. Ribery’s lack of defensive work also allowed for Silva to roam free and run against Gael Clichy who then had to handle Arbeloa on the wing too.
The second half provided for no viewing pleasure at all. Even if you were a Spain supporter. Possession was the key word and scoring wasn’t. France, however, did get slightly better in the second half. They created more from the flanks and more width too but there was never enough to bother Iker Casillas in goal.
Xabi Alonso put the game beyond the French as second half substitute Pedro was brought down in the box by Réveillère. The Real Madrid midfielder stepped up and slotted the ball into the left hand side of the goal to make it nice and easy into the semi-finals against Portugal.
Spain deserved the victory based on their few minutes of fantastic play. France need to go back to figuring out what happened after they got to Poland-Ukraine.
Spain will now face Portugal in the semi-finals on 27 June at Donbass Arena in Donetsk (venue for tonight’s game).
SPORTS UN MAN OF THE MATCH: Xabi Alonso
France: Lloris, Reveillere, Rami, Koscielny, Clichy, Debuchy, Cabaye, M’Vila, Malouda, Ribery, Benzema.
Spain: Casillas – Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba – Busquets, Alonso, Xavi – Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta
Goals: Xabi Alonso (19′ and 90+1′)
Bookings: Menez, Cabaye (France) and Sergio Ramos (Spain)