Spain cruised into the last four of Euro 2012 with a 2-0 win over France after a dominant display of football.
Portugal are next up for Del Bosque’s team in the semi-final next, and, here, we look at some of the points Paulo Bento may want to keep in mind.
No strikers for Spain – again!
Just as they did in their opening group game against Italy, Spain opted to play without a recognised striker. Although their 4-3-3 formation showed Cesc Fabregas as the most forward player, the Spanish decided to play with a midfield six consisting of Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Fabregas and Andres Iniesta with Fernando Torres coming into the game late-on.
100 not out for Alonso
Xabi Alonso was making his 100th appearance for Spain and the No.14 opened the scoring with his 14th international goal before putting the game to bed with a stoppage-time penalty.
Alonso, who normally stations himself in front of the back four, distributing the ball, scored with a well-controlled header from Jordi Alba’s inviting cross from the left, but where was the marking? He then calmly slotted home from the spot after Anthony Reveillere sent Pedro crashing.
Spain looked like reigning world and European champions, prodding and probing, looking for an opportunity inbetween the lines and as soon as France lost their concentration, bang! They hit them where it hurts most. The movement and rotation was a joy to watch at times and they all took it in turns to play the front man, proving that this unique system can work.
One for the record books
Spain had never beaten France in six competitive matches, until now! They were always confident of victory and it was never in doubt as they coasted into the last four with a dominant display, playing the game at a testimonial-type pace at times.
Laurent Blanc’s side were sloppy at times and were left frustrated by the sheer lack of possession for most of the game, which was something they were simply not used to. Players were losing the ball easily and whether it was a lack of concentration or loss of confidence, this was not the same side which had gone 23 games undefeated before losing to Sweden.
What Spanish Inquisition?
France made it too easy for Spain as soon as they conceded the first goal. Their high line was working well from the start of the game, but their midfielders failed to show a lack of desire and fight as soon as they went behind. Les Bleus looked intimidated and fearful to go out and play against the best passing team in the world. Surely Portugal won’t do the same, will they?
Spanish Armada at Donbass
The Spanish supporters had turned out in force throughout their opening three group games in Gdansk, Poland, and they were out in large numbers once again – around 3,000 of them at the impressive Donbass Arena in Donetsk singing “Espania, Espania”. The French on the other hand – who had been based in Ukraine during their group games, only had around 800 fans. Despite the lack of numbers, the locals were certainly interested in the game because it was a complete sell-out. Most of Iberia is sure to turn out for the semi-final at the same venue next Wednesday evening!
Two French legends and World Cup winners were supposed to be ‘celebrating’ their birthdays on Saturday. Zinedine Zidane turned 40 and Patrick Vieira is 36. Zizou was the last Frenchman to score in a competitive match against the Spanish. Both he and Vieira scored in a 3-1 victory in the second round of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, although they will not have enjoyed the outcome of this one.