Alonso marks 100 caps in style against sorry France


Xabi Alonso reached the 100 caps milestone tonight in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 against France, and certainly marked in style as he scored both goals in his nation’s 2-0 victory to set up a mouth-watering semifinal fixture against Portugal.

As expected, Spain were very much on top from the kick-off and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 19th minute, but Gael Clichy, Adil Rami and Lorient Koscielny will all be kicking themselves for not picking up Xabi Alonso on the far post as he ran into acres of space to power a header beyond the reach of Hugo Lloris. Spain could have been two or three up at half-time had David Silva been on his game, but the Manchester City man’s passing just wasn’t up to its usual standard tonight.

Goalscorer Xabi Alonso who reached a century of caps for the World and European Champions tonight.

France came out in the second half with a bit more fire in their belly, but in the periods of the half when they looked like they might create something, they did very little, as a very organised Spanish defence was able to see off any French attack. Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez were introduced to change the game, but there was little they could do as Spain eventually delivered the killer blow when Xabi Alonso scored from the penalty spot in injury time after Pedro had been bundled over in the box by Anthony Réveillère.

Rumours had circulated of unrest in the French camp and it appeared to have translated onto the pitch with uninspiring performances from Karim Benzema and Florent Malouda in particular. The fact Benzema ends the tournament without a single goal says all you need to know about the Real Madrid man’s poor showing at Euro 2012.

Franck Ribery and Hugo Lloris are the only players from Laurent Blanc’s squad who leave Donetsk with their heads held high tonight. Ribery caused all sorts of problems for Alvaro Arbeloa, creating numerous nervous chances for the French defence, but he couldn’t do it all on his own and was also eventually stopped when he attempted to grab a goal or create a chance for Benzema and co. Lloris, despite conceding two goals tonight, showed quick thinking to come and challenge Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres, the latter of which was offside, when they looked destined to extend their lead. Had Lloris not been in goal, the scoreline could have been embarrassing.

Tonight was a typical Spanish performance. Passing, possession and low scoring. Left-back Jordi Alba enjoyed another impressive performance that consisted of threatening runs at the Mathieu Debuchy and comfortable defending. He claimed an assist as he set up Alonso with a pin point chip over the defence.

Fernando Torres and Pedro both looked lively and eager to make an impact. Pedro’s pace left Debuchy and Revelliere for dead every time he found himself in possession, while despite his lively performance, Torres was often caught offside.

Cristiano Ronaldo will no doubt cause problems for Arbeloa should be reproduce his performance he showed against the Czech Republic, but I can’t anything other than Spanish victory.

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