France draw a Blanc as Spain ease through
An absolutely crap French team limped away from Euro 2012 after a performance in which no-one in their white shirt seemed to try. Defending champions Spain were nowhere near their best and, truth be told, didn’t even need to be, as they sauntered into a semi-final meeting with Portugal. A goal in each half by a bloke with a daft ginger beard did the damage, and the only surprise was it took Xabi Alonso until the 91st minute to double the Spanish lead.
Laurent Blanc, a winner of this championship as a player with France in 2000, somehow managed to score four times in a two year stint with Manchester United late in his playing career. Tonight, a feeble French side Blanc packed with defensive-styled players never looked like scoring and took out of the match precisely what they deserved – flights home! An early-ish Spanish opener should have been the catalyst for a decent encounter, but nope, not a bit of it.
Normal service was resumed for Spain who, from the off, tried to weave intricate passing patterns of rarely more than five yards. Vicente del Bosque’s cunning plan of once again starting without a recognised striker – Fernando Torres was on the bench – saw Cesc Fabregas as the Spanish go to guy, dropping deep in that Lionel Messi role. The fact he wore the number 10 on his shirt failed to alert the sleepy Frenchmen to the fact he was the false 9.
Even after their dismal capitulation to a mediocre Swedish team in the final group game, after which severe ructions emerged from their camp, France were still supposed to give Spain, the favourites in this match, quite a test. That they did too, just one of patience! A well worked opening goal via the combination of Jordi Alba, down the left, and the head of Alonso, in way too much space, saw the ball pass behind Gael Clichy and keeper Hugo Lloris.
A brief flurry of French activity saw Les Bleus temporarily spark into life for the opening fifteen second half minutes, at the back though, Spain didn’t once need to panic or hustle into a bad tackle. Debuchy headed over from close in and French forward Karim Benzema ended the championship without troubling the Euro 2012 scorers, no doubt an immense disappointment for the thousands of fantasy football players around Europe.
A 1-0 lead, whoever holds it, is always tenuous at best, and the usual football form is for the team trailing by a goal to do something about it. Eventually France did, but way too late. Laurent Blanc figured it out and sent on Samir Nasri and Arsenal target Olivier Giroud to try and make a difference. Nothing much changed. Spain plugged away with their incessant passing and France produced precious little of note.
Midway through four additional minutes, Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli, who was heavily criticized after taking charge of the French game with England, awarded Spain a soft penalty following a power puff challenge on Pedro by Anthony Reveillere. Unlike the French players, Xabi Alonso wasn’t complaining, though and, on the occasion of his 100th cap for La Roja, he sent Lloris the wrong way with a side footed spot kick.
After the game, Manchester City star Samir Nasri, no stranger to controversy thus far in the tournament, showed his Marseille council house class once more. Asked a perfectly legitimate question by a French reporter during a post game presser, instead of the usual platitudes, super Samir responded with an expletive laden tirade. Not content with turning the air bleu, he then offered the startled hack outside. Nice!