Spain 2-0 France
In the third absolutely dominant performance in the quarter-finals, Spain put a 2-0 beating on France, who suffered again from playing Karim Benzema too deep and not having a striker upon whom the game could focus.* I said it a million times, the strategy would bite France in the ass, and for the second game in a row, it did. France barely threatened in the run of play and, despite some dangerous set-pieces, were unable to play ball control against the stylish masters of tiki-taka.
Play deeper… Deeper….DEEPER!!
2-0 was generous to the French because, once again, Vicente Del Bosque went without a traditional striker, playing Cesc Fabregas as a “false nine**” and again, Spain did not put up big numbers on goal. It was, instead, the Xabi Alonso show.
The Alonso brace
My heart aches every time I see Xabi Alonso play; once my favorite player for my club team (Liverpool FC), Alonso moved away a few years ago to play at Real Madrid, where he has flourished. There is no other player like him in the world of football; his ability to spray passes with pinpoint accuracy while disrupting the opponent’s midfield is an absolutely unique combination of skills. Play him next to a ball winner like Sergio Busquets and just behind a field general like Xavi Hernandez and Alonso looks like an absolute wizard out there. His run to the far post for the opening goal (a header!!!) was spectacular and his penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game was placed perfectly. He is one of the best passers of the ball in the game, technically gifted and, on top of it, a world class human being. I really miss him. Always will.
France are gone, outclassed again. I hope Laurent Blanc takes a look at the Benzema situation and either starts him in partnership with Giroud or allows him to play a far more advanced role and lead the line in the future. Otherwise, France won’t advance as a team. They have a ton of potential, but they need the tactics to change and to get goals.
Spain? Well, I’m still not as convinced as I’d like to be. Their Quarter-final against Portugal should be a storming match; if they can get past Ronaldo, I’m not sure Germany will be able to beat them. Will be a real test.
Let the true tests begin…
*I am not going to bore you by putting this in the body of the text, but how in the world did Blanc start Florent Malouda ahead of Jeremy Menez? I encourage anyone who is bored enough to visit espnfc.com and watch all of France’s matches again and tell me: who is better player? Who helps the attack more? Who can play a pass ten feet without putting in on the boot of the opposition? Malouda was utterly dire in this Tournament and the decision to start him in this match was shocking.
**This trendy term is based on the idea that Lionel Messi is not a traditional Number 9 (a striker who plays up top in the attack) for Barcelona. Instead, the idea is to have a player like Messi who is fluent in the midfield build-up while simultaneously leading the line. This is basically the “false nine”– an attacker who springs forward from the midfield instead of leading the line on the shoulder of the central defenders.