Spain 2 (Alonso 19, 90 (pen)) – France 0
Man of the Match – Xabi Alonso (Spain)
You knew it was coming. I had expected this semi final to be a cracking contest, between one really exciting young French side, and another experienced Spanish passmasters. At the end of it, the Spanish outpassed the French to set up an all Iberian semi-final with neighbors Portugal.
There were surprises on both sides starting lineups. Francesc Fabregas was drafted back into the team in place of Fernando Torres. I think it was a good move, as Torres would have struggled against a really tight French unit. He just wouldn’t have gotten the delivery he desires. Cesc Fabregas adds another dimension to the Spanish squad. He was one of 6 central midfielders who started yesterday.
France on the other hand made some surprise selections themselves. Samir Nasri was dropped to the bench, and taking his place on the right side of midfield was right-back Mathieu Debuchy. Anthony Reveillere started at right-back. Also, Alou Diarra lost his place to the bustling Rennes midfielder Yaan M’Vila. Laurent Koscielny took his place in the centre of defence instead of the suspended Phillipe Mexes.
Spain controlled most of the game from kickoff. They looked composed in possession, but yet lacked incisiveness in attack. However, they got their breakthrough on 19 minutes, when Jordi Alba’s superbly weighted cross was met with a thumping header from on onrushing Alonso.
France had few opportunities, Benzema and Ribery doing their best, but Spain were expertly closing them down. Yohan Cabaye’s freekick was palmed away by Casillas, when it seemed destined to be going in. The Spanish were happy at keeping the ball, till Fabregas released Iniesta on the right. Only a last ditch Koscielny challenge thwarted the threat.
France looked a better team in the second half, with more urgency in them. Debuchy had a rather straightforward header over the bar, and he and Malouda were soon replaced by Nasri and Menez.
However, this was to little effect, as the Spanish dominated so much of the ball. In the end, Reveillere bought down substitute Pedro in the box, which was rather a harsh decision. Alonso scored his and Spain’s second on the night, to set up a date with Portugal.
Match Ratings – Spain
Casillas (7) – Barely called into action. Made a fine save off the Cabaye free-kick.
Arbeloa (7.5) – A good game. Never allowed Ribery any space.
Ramos (7.5) – Looks much better in central defence.
Pique (7.5) – Another fine game.
Alba (8) – Made many darting runs on the left, and earned an assist.
Busquets (8) – Helped Spain dominate midfield proceedings.
Alonso (9) – Match winner. His passing was immaculate.
Xavi (8.5) – Helped outpass the packed French midfield.
Iniesta (8) – His bustling self yesterday. Played that vital ball for Alba’s cross.
Silva (7.5) – Disappointed a bit as his Manchester City teammate Clichy kept him quiet.
Fabregas (7.5) – Didn’t justify his selection, though provided more numbers in midfield.
Pedro (7.5) – Won a late penalty.
Torres (7) – Was bought on to frustrate the French, and did his job. Never looked threatening.
Cazorla – No Rating
Match Ratings – France
Lloris (7) – Not his best game, keeping wise or distribution wise.
Reveillere (6.5) – Didn’t offer much going forward, and was responsible for both goals.
Rami (7.5) – A good composed performance.
Koscielny (8) – Made several last ditch challenges. Clearly a better defender than Mexes.
Clichy (7) – Not his best game, though he did manage to stifle Silva.
Debuchy (7) – Played out of position, and you really can’t blame him, can you.
M’Vila (7) – Looked peripheral with all the Spanish possession.
Cabaye (7.5) – The best performer in France’s midfielder last night. Organised the few attacks they mustered.
Malouda (7) – Looks like he has carried over club form to country.
Ribery (7.5) – He tried his best in whatever little space that was afforded to him by the Spanish.
Benzema (8) – Had a tough outing, but he was their most creative player on the night.
Menez (6.5) – Barely got the ball to make an impact of any kind.
Nasri (7) – Was bought on too late to make any impact.
Giroud – No Rating
Spain – 7.73
France – 7.19