Match in a sentence
It was dull and it was dire, but Spain cruised by France to set up a semi final date with Iberian neighbours Portugal.
- Vincent Del Bosque’s side made one change to the line up that played Croatia and it was Cesc Fabregas for Fernando Torres. It was the false nine coming in for the natural nine in a 4-3-3 formation that wasn’t really effective against Italy earlier on in the tournament.
- France who were in the media in the past week as there was a rumoured locker room fall out between coach Laurent Blanc-Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri –Alou Diarra. To no surprise those three men were left out of the starting XI against France. France had a reactive approach to the game and set up in what looked to be a 4-2-3-1 that saw Laurent Koscielny start ahead of the suspended Phillipe Mexes, Florent Malouda replace Samir Nasri, Matthieu Debuchy play on the right, and gave Reveillere is first start at right back in the tournament.
- The game started pretty slow but what was interesting as time passed was the amount of space France was leaving on Spain’s right flank whereas on the left flank Reveillere and Debuchy had the space occupied. Although, I believe Blanc had the right intentions, his initial plan backfired as Alvaro Arbeloa and David Silva had acres of space to work with and it opened up the game for the Spanish midfield and that well covered left side.
- Surprisingly Spain’s goal came from that left side as left back Jordi Alba stormed past Debuchy (who had slipped) and weighed in a perfect ball to an unmarked Xabi Alonso who nodded the cross past Hugo Lloris. The goal also came from lazy marking in Florent Malouda who was absolutely awful throughout the game, as he failed to track back which allowed Alonso to run into the box unmarked.
- Spain’s movement was better this game than their first three, and for once they were able to inject some width into their very narrow game. The two wingers Iniesta and Silva were wide when Spain had the ball at the back but were able to drift into the midfield when going forward which allowed space for Alba and Arbeloa to get forward. This also left more space in the midfield for the MOTM Xabi Alonso to string passes across the pitch and also get into farther advanced positions than he’s used too.
- I had two problems with France throughout this entire tournament. The first one was Karim Benzema who had a great campaign at Real Madrid this season, but was merely ineffective throughout the entire tournament. Although they had some positive breaks going forward, Benzema was unable to link up with Cabaye or Ribery. Benzema not only in this game but throughout the tournament didn’t really have great service, which saw him repeatedly drift into the midfield to try to receive the ball when he should be on the shoulder of the last defender waiting for that final ball. He didn’t get the service that he does at Madrid, but he was unable to get in behind any of his opponents backlines. It was a very frustrating tournament for Benzema and surely one he’d like to quickly forget.
- We also learned that France really lack a creative playmaker. They struggled to get behind their opponents defence in every single game, and although they have great wide players, the service to Benzema wasn’t good enough. Locker room bust ups didn’t really help the cause, but it were these issues that have France knocked out of Euro 2012 at the quarter final stage.
- These issues were further exposed in an uninspiring second half from both sides. France had more of the ball but was unable to penetrate the Spanish defence. They were poor through the half and were unable to create any chances as they had zero shots on target in the half.
- Both teams made substitutes that Nasri, Menez and Giroud come on for France, while Torres, Santi Carzola and Pedro came on for Spain. Neither substitutes really changed the game except for Pedro, who in the 89th minute was fouled in the box when he beat Reveillere with a step over. Xabi Alonso stepped up to the spot and converted his second goal of the night, which ended a superb performance from him on his 100th cap for Spain.
- France’s Euro 2012 campaign has come to an end, but it was a much positive outing when compared to 08 & 10.Blanc and his men put out a dire performance but tactically there was no more they could’ve really done. There’s only so much you can do in football, sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the better team. France are well on their way to being a contender in 2014, but they still need to get rid of some of the egos on this team. Laurent Blanc has done a fantastic job in turning this team around leading up to this tournament and with only being a creative player away from being a contender, lets hope that we see him leading this team to Brazil in 2014
- Spain boring? Since when did playing exciting soccer have any relevance to winning trophies? This is the ignorant/tactically incompetent soccer tweets I have to endure on my TL. For those who were unaware, Spain cruised through this game with their “tiki-taka” football and their best offence was their best defence. The focus on ball retention made sense tactically especially when they were up a goal and in firm control. This statement is proven to be true as France failed to get a shot on target in the second half. Theirs no need to push forward if the opponent is content on sitting deep. When protecting the lead it would make sense to pass the ball until you draw your defenders out of position, and this is what Spain does so well. Yes it may not be eye-catching but it gets the job done, and if they go on to claim their third major competition in a row everyone will forget about these performances as they did to those in South Africa. Del Bosque’s Spainmight not be in full gear but they’re so good that even when not playing at their best they always seem to get the job done. Many haven’t given Spain the respect they deserve thus far, but those same people have failed to accept Spain for what they truly are and have counted them out of this entire tournament, basing their predictions on their performances in the last year and a half. (This also goes to show how important Lionel Messi is to Barcelona, but we won’t get into that now will we.)
- Xabi Alonso
- Sergio Ramos
- Laurent Koscielny