[SPAIN-FRANCE] French coach Laurent Blanc adopted a defensive approach to try to stop defending champion Spain, and his
tactics backfired as Spanish attacks down its left side, where the Bleus added a second defender, produced both goals in a 2-0 win on Saturday that sent the Spaniards into Thursday's semifinals.
Xabi Alonso celebrated his 100th cap with a goal in each half, the first on an open header and the second from the penalty spot.
"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."
Blanc's strategy was to field two right backs with Mathieu Debuchy playing in front of Anthony Reveillere to neutralize the threat of Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba, but the two Spaniards teamed up to set up the first goal.
Alba broke free on the left wing and whipped a cross to Alonso, who scored on a header with no defender in sight. As stoppage time came, Reveillere knocked down Pedro for a penalty kick Alonso converted.
Spain had never defeated France in six competitive matches, but it was the overwhelming favorite against the Bleus.
Blanc, who dropped star Samir Nasri in favor of Debuchy, said the plan was to contain the Spaniards until the half and attack them in the second half.
"The only thing I regret is that they scored off their first chance," Blanc said. "If we had gone in 0-0 at halftime, I think we would have had more room in the second half."
He acknowledged that the French strategy was to neutralize Iniesta and Alba.
"We had analyzed the Spanish lineup well because they had two very strong players on the left," the French coach said, "but what is the most frustrating thing is that we conceded the goal from that side."
For the first time in the tournament, Spain had less than 60 percent of the ball. The French managed to stay in the game, limiting the Spaniards to nine shots, but the Bleus only managed four of their own.
June 23 in Donetsk
Spain 2 France 0. Goals: Xabi Alonso 19, (pen.) 90.
Spain -- Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Silva (Pedro, 65), Iniesta (Santi Cazorla, 84), Fabregas (Fernando Torres, 67).
France -- Lloris, Reveillere, Rami, Koscielny, Clichy, Debuchy (Menez, 65), Cabaye, M'Vila (Giroud, 79), Malouda (Nasri, 65), Ribery, Benzema.