Spain completely controlled their quarterfinal match against underdogs France. One goal in each half was enough to ensure a comfortable win for defending champions against a France side that never really threatened.
The line-ups contained a couple of mild surprises. Spain again opted to forego a true striker, starting Cesc Fabregas over Fernando Torres. And the three players involved in a changing room bust-up after France's loss to Sweden – Samir Nasri, Alou Diarra and Hatem Ben Arfa – also began the match sitting on the sidelines.
As expected, Spain played their patented short-passing, possession game, while France clogged the middle and tried to counter on the break.
And the defending World Cup and European champions nabbed a useful early lead in minute 18. Jordi Alba pressed to the end line and then crossed back for Xabi Alonso, who headed into the net.
The second half was a virtual repeat of the first, with France trying - and failing - to generate pressure. Meanwhile, Spain hogged the ball and kept their opponents at bay.
France were forced to open up late in the match, and in added time Anthony
For Alonso it was an excellent day at the office, picking up a brace in his 100th match for Spain. Talking to reporters after the game, though, he kept his cool.
"There's a lot of personal satisfaction in getting to 100 caps and of course getting on the score sheet," Alonso said. "We are now in the semis and of course all the games at this stage are life and death. We didn't have that many chances but we had the match totally under control."
"Is a quarter-final the level where France is at the moment?” France coach Laurent Blanc asked in his post-game remarks. “I don't know, what I do know is that the best sides will be in the semi-finals and France won't be."
Spain will now face Portugal in Donezk on Wednesday with a berth in the final at stake.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Jessie Wingard