Spain had never beaten France in a tournament before, with a record heavily skewed in French favor. However, Del Bosque had the right attitude at the press conference, when he said it’s time to rewrite history. That is exactly what Spain did. Spain went into the game with the much criticized 4-6-0 formation, with no striker starting. France tried to counter that with playing two right backs to neutralize Iniesta and Alba. Ironically, it was from that side that the first goal came. For most parts of the game, Spain remained in front of the French back four and apart from Alonso’s goal; there were not many clear cut opportunities for the Spanish. Whenever the French got the ball back from a misplaced, which wasn’t very often, they found it hard to find creative outlets. Ribery, often the man to inspire his team at Bayern, saw the ball on a few occasions beat his first marker with ease regularly as well, but was not supported well enough by his team mates. Benzema in particular was not in sync with Ribery as they both misplaced a lot of passes between them. Spain kept weaving their nonstop pattern, with pass after pass. France kept chasing the ball from left to right and back left. It did not feel like France were the team looking for an equalizer rather than Spain. Such was the lack of ambition shown by the French, often only Ribery and Benzema were left stranded in a forward position with as much as 8 Spanish players surrounding them. The 2nd half saw France press just a bit forward compared to the 1st. The game started to open up a bit more, but Spain’s lack of a striker didn’t stretch it beyond France’s control. The best chance perhaps fell to the closest to a striker Spain had, Fabregas. However, Lloris reacted well to block Fabregas. France’s central midfielder, M’Vila started to be more involved in the game in the 2nd period and was perhaps unlucky to be taken off later in the game. His distribution from deep lying position was keeping France in the game for a while. The 2nd goal and the final blow to France came late on through the penalty spot after Pedro was taken down inside the box. Alonso duly obliged and scored his 2nd goal on the night when he got his 100th cap for the national side. Result had seemed inevitable from early on and it seemed a matter of by how much.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Xabi Alonso
Before the match, there were talks of dropping him to the bench for a more attacking player as Busquets and Xavi made a better partnership. He cemented his position in the team with his well taken brace. He rarely ventures so far forward in a game, perhaps that’s what Del Bosque wanted to take advantage of. The element of surprise, which Low used against Greece for Germany’s quarter final, worked wonders for Spain as well. Other than his two goals, Alonso had a great game with 110 (most in the game) touches and a passing accuracy for 92%.
FLOP OF THE MATCH: Karim Benzema
Not for the first time, I’ve chosen the Madrid striker. He has been poor throughout the tournament. He is the player with most shots without a goal. No doubt he prefers to drop back rather than making runs off defenders’ shoulders, hence, it may have been better to play him along side Giroud. I think Ronaldo makes Benzema look much better than he actually is.
POST MATCH REACTION:
- Vicente del Bosque, Spain coach
Playing with a true forward gives you more depth but we wanted to have more continuity, to dominate and to have possession of the ball in order to create chances.
I don’t think this is an unfair outcome because we were in control most of the time.
- Laurent Blanc, France coach
You’re never happy when you lose a game, you’re always disappointed. When you go out of a European Championship you’re even more disappointed. We had looked a lot at the Spanish side and we knew they were very good on the left, with Jordi Alba and Iniesta always doubling up.
The most frustrating thing is that we conceded [the first goal] on that side. That’s what’s infuriating; they just had one cross and they scored. Just like they’re very good on the left, we wanted to attack them up our left because we’ve got Franck Ribéry there and Karim likes to drift left as well. Two or three times we lacked technique when we could have put them in some difficulty. Had we gone in 0-0 at the interval – although Spain had enjoyed most of the ball – we could have caused problems for them.
FROM HERE ON:
- Spain: They still don’t look menacingly good in their fluid game. Yes, their formation gives them more control and possession but it comes at a cost of clear cut scoring chances. Can they win this tournament again? Yes.
- France: When you compare this tournament to what France did two years ago in South Africa, this has to be considered a very successful tournament. Blanc solved a lot of major issues that the France team of ’10 had and has brought them a long way since that debacle. They still remain work in progress though. If he remains the coach till 2014 world cup, France might take a leap from being in the top 8 of Europe to top 4 of the World.
RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE MATCH: Samir Nasri was it again. Allegedly, he was swearing at journalists after the match last night. He blamed them to deliberately writing negative remarks about the French side. A lot of people in the media are quoting Samir using the F word as well. At this rate, he might join the league of most hated footballers together with John Terry, Carlos Tevez et al.
- Spain 2, France 0: Spain Beats France to Reach Euro 2012 Semifinals (nytimes.com)
- PST: Spain beats France, faces Ronaldo in semis (prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com)