It certainly wasn’t the most exciting contest of the competition but Spanish fans won’t mind after seeing their team through to the semi-finals of Euro 2012 on Saturday.
A 2-0 victory gave Spain their first win in competitive football against the French and it came relatively easily.
Xabi Alonso scored two goals in his 100th international appearance which propelled Vincent del Bosque’s team to a semi-final date with neighbours Portugal on Wednesday.
Alonso first scored with a thumping downward header in the 19th minute and then converted a penalty in injury time.
“Scoring the early goal really made things easy, so I must say we’re happy”
“We knew this was the most important match and we played very well,” Alonso said.
“Scoring the early goal really made things easy, so I must say we’re happy.”
The victory was Spain’s first over France in seven attempts and they now face Portugal in Donetsk as they bid to win a third straight major title.
The opening goal was the result of excellent one-touch football – the hallmark of Spain’s game.
Andres Iniesta prodded the ball through for Jordi Alba, who whipped a perfect cross from the left to Alonso. The Real Madrid midfielder timed his run so well that he had acres of space to score the tournament’s 20th header.
Spain wrapped things up after France right back Anthony Reveillere barged into substitute forward Pedro Rodriguez in injury time. Alonso coolly sent goalkeeper Hugo Lloris the wrong way from the spot, looking right but clipping the ball firmly to the left.
“When you lose a game there’s always something missing, I’m not sure if it’s possession or technical ability,” France coach Laurent Blanc said.
“The lads gave everything and it’s very hard to play against Spain. We blocked their left flank, which is their strong point.”
France’s only shot on target came in the 32nd minute when Yohan Cabaye’s free kick was tipped over by Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
The match was sometimes dull, but the Spanish did not really need to change gears after Alonso’s opening goal.
Although the French made it out of the group stage for the first time since the 2006 World Cup, the manner of Saturday’s loss will be disappointing for a team touted as one of the tournament’s dangerous outsiders.
France formed a deep defensive line and watched awe-struck as Spain flicked the ball around like a training session. The Spanish made dummy runs everywhere early on, and had a penalty claim waved away in the sixth minute when Cesc Fabregas tumbled under a challenge from left back Gael Clichy.|
Spain soon pulled a compact France team out of position in the 10th minute as Iniesta curled a ball behind center half Adil Rami but it was too far for Fabregas to reach.
Karim Benzema, looking for his first goal at a major tournament, looked sharp and made some good runs, but the Real Madrid striker rarely got any service. He was fouled in the 32nd after galloping onto Florent Malouda’s pass, and Cabaye’s free kick was sailing into the top left corner before Casillas shuffled across quickly to save it.
That was as good as it got for France.