Reigning World and European Champions have set up a semi final date at the EURO 2012 against their main rivals in the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal, in a match that is expected to be the best match of the EUROs so far with two of the best teams in the Championships coming face to face with a place in the finals at stake. Spain beat France in a fantastic display of technical football on Saturday night as Les Bleus coach Laurent Blanc only stood on the sidelines and saw his team falling apart in front of the crisp and precise passing of La Roja.
Spain started the match off as favorites but France did give them a more or less difficult game in the first half and other than the goal by Xabi Alonso in the 19th minute, Spain had very little clear cut opportunities to show for all the ball possession in the opposition territory. Blanc started out with in form wingers Jeremy Menez and Samir Nasri on the bench and Florent Malouda and full back Mathieu Debuchy on the wings. Most football pundits thought this to be a gamble on the part of the French coach and also thought the side was too defensive.
Experts unanimously opined that the only way France had any chance of beating the Spanish was by taking the game to them and as soon as they named such a defensive lineup, the match was as good as over. Spain had almost 65% of the ball possession in the first half and Xabi Alonso popped up to head in a cross from Jordi Alba to give Spain a 1-0 lead in the first half. However, Spain looked content to sit on that one goal lead as they kept playing the ball within themselves, be it in defense or midfield.
France, on the other hand, hardly had a sniff of the ball and their main striker Karim Benzema cut a forlorn figure in attack. The only player that France had who was trying to create something was Franck Ribery but he too, did not have any support from his midfield partners. Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas hardly had to catch the ball in the first half and likewise the second half. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque changed things around in the second half and brought on Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres in the 67th minute and it was Pedro who earned Spain a penalty in the dying moments of the game after his mazy run was stopped by a foul in the French defense.
Xabi Alonso made no mistake from the spot as he capped off his 100th Spanish cap with two goals to book Spain’s place in the semi finals of EURO 2012 against arch rivals Portugal. Portugal are also a form team with Cristiano Ronaldo in scintillating goal scoring touch and the match between the two on Wednesday could turn out to be the game of the European Championships of 2012.