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Jun 2012
01:29 Comments (45)
Spain break the spell, by Rafa Benitez

Euro 2012

Rafa BenÝtez

Two goals scored by Xabi Alonso on his 100th appearance for his country, one thanks to a great measured pass from Jordi Alba and the other from a penalty for a foul on Pedro, were enough to take the Spanish national team through to the semi-finals of Euro 2012 and at the same time break, once and for all, the spell that France usually put on them. And so they overcame the French side in an scrappier game you would expect from two world champions.

The truth is that Spain were always the better team in a game without much tempo. But they imposed their quality and touch, just doing enough, against a rather ‘grey’ French team. There was a lot of speculation about the team selection of both squads right up to kick off. In Spain they were wondering whether Vicente Del Bosque would opt for Fernando Torres or Fabregas, whilst inFrance the subject was tactical. Would they just defend or would they spring a surprise and attack? The questions were answered when Cesc was named in the starting eleven and Blanc set out his stall in the first few minutes when his team played very, very defensive. The selection of Reveillere at full back and Debuchy, also a defender, on the right of midfield in a 1-4-1-4-1 was all that was needed to show their intentions along with a player like Malouda in place of Nasri in midfield.

Spain, with their classic 1-4-3-3, and Fabregas as a ‘false’ striker with a lot of interchange of positions between Alonso, Busquets and Xavi Hernandez and doing what everyone was expecting: keeping possession and having the ball for long periods. With possession figures of 62% to 38%, the Spanish dominated the game, although without much tempo, or much pace in ball circulation, but, as usual, without losing it and without having any trouble defensively. As for the French, they tried to prevent Jordi Alba getting forward on the wing with Debuchy making a fifth defender and, on occasions, even Ribery doing a similar job on the other side against Alvaro Arbeloa.


Reveillere left his position to close Iniesta between lines when he could as the game developed and France were intento n stopping Spain but this left them without teeth in attack. With this shape of both teams it was matter of time until Del Bosque’s men had a chance to score. And we didn’t have to wait long, when in the 19th minute a great piece of play by Jordi Alba, who got to the goal line, crossed for Xabi Alonso to put a good header in the net to open the scoring.

The pace of the game was slow from both teams and Spain couldn’t create chances so there was little of note. And half time came with a close scoreline but with nearly double the passes from Spain (324) to France (165) which only confirrned what we had seen on the pitch.

More of the same

As there were no changes by either side, and the shapes were similar to the first half, we were sentenced to a similar pattern to what had gone before. It was down to France to do something and they did in the 53rd minute when they regained the ball and made a quick counter attack. The same thing happened a minute later and in the 59th minute, Debuchy had a headed chance but it caused no problem.

Blanc’s team began to get more men forward and the bench brought on Menez and Nasri to help matters. Del Bosque responded by bringing on Pedro for Silva and just a few minutes later Torres for Cesc, trying to exploit the spaces that would be surely left behind the ‘blue’ defence.

The French changed to a 1-4-2-3-1 and in the 70th minute they regained again and counter attacked dangerously through Ribery. Torres and Pedro were looking to get behind the defence but without much effect and the French coach played his last card bringing on Giroud for M’Vila and played with two clear strikers.

Santi Cazorla came on for Andres Iniesta and the game went in to its final throes. Because the Malaga player found Pedro in the box and he got away from Rami cleverly but was brought down by Reveillere for a clear penalty. It was up to Xabi Alonso to put it away, giving him a second goal on his 100th cap and Spain went through to a semi-final against Portugal and France go home. The spell had been broken and the French were beaten at last in serious competition.

45 Comments Send us your opinions
24/06/12 at 02:06:07 #1
Hi Rafa gr8 article as usual...what does in your opinion Fabregas give more then Torres and Llorente? How come Spain are the only team that can play without a proper striker and still be very dangerous? And finally, in my opinion, France had a below par Euro and personally would have expected something more...am I right in saying that they have valuable individuals but very poor team work?
24/06/12 at 08:46:42 #2
complimenti alla sua Spagna, ma la Francia non ci ha quasi neppure provato...; Mister, come gli ultimi mille che le hanno scritto anch'io tifo Sampdoria e la soddisfazione di vederla accostato a Noi Ŕ giÓ di per se immensa; lei Ŕ un grande manager e non Ŕ solo l'allenatore che Ŕ tipico qui in Italia, ma s˛ per certo che vorrebbe avere un'occasione per far capire il suo lavoro; creda all'ultimo di quelli che sanno di calcio (Lei ne pu˛ fare a meno perchŔ con la sua cultura mi fa fare media): se davvero vuole lavorare bene e fare nascere qualcosa dalle sue mani ci provi, ci misuri e non se ne pentirÓ! un'ultima cosa: oltre che dei giocatori chieda alla societÓ anche un paio di filmati della Gradinata sud in festa con i Nostri colori, le Nostre bandiere, i Nostri cori ecc, sia quando si vince, ma anche di quando si Ŕ perso e cosý, se Ŕ tutto vero e se aveva ancora un dubbio, secondo me, se lo toglierebbe in un attimo... Cordialmente, Giovanni un tifoso della Sampdoria che la vuole a Genova
24/06/12 at 09:22:21 #3
Conrad Lodziak
A comfortable win for Spain. After the first 30 minutes, apart from the odd individual burst, Spain were unable to raise the tempo. Possibly the heat was too much. One-touch slick pass and move was rare. Possibly the pitch was poor. I feel that Spain must find better form against Portugal. The latter will have had two extra days of rest, and that could be key given that Spain looked very tired.
24/06/12 at 09:58:52 #4
Do you feel that teams attitudes when approaching a game against Spain can have a negative impact on their performance? It seems every team adopts a 'strategy' to attempt to contain them which ultimately reduces their attacking threat, Italy did this with some success, Croatia a little less so, and France not at all. As a manager, would you change your teams usual formation and style of play significantly as the three teams mentioned above have done when facing the Spanish national side?


Hello Kieran, I thought the game had no tempo, it is true France was so worried about Spain they didn't play at their level. Thanks.
24/06/12 at 10:20:54 #5
Mister, lei non si rende conto di quanto entusiasmo potrebbe scatenare un suo arrivo a Genova. Il solo fatto che se ne parli Ŕ giÓ motivo di euforia. Con lei in panchina lo stadio sarebbe sempre pieno, dopo un anno di B ripartire con uno dei pi¨ grandi allenatori al mondo sarebbe un sogno! Se viene le offro una cena al ristorante The Cook a Nervi!!
24/06/12 at 10:28:16 #6
Scott Daly
Hi Rafa, great article as always.

I personally feel Spain have deployed this "false nine" position quite well so far, keeping the ball superbly well with their 6 midfielders for the first 60 minutes, only to bring on players like Torres, Navas and Pedro in the latter stages who can hurt a tired opposition who have been chasing shadows for the whole match.

Is this the intention of Del Bosque or just a coincidence?

24/06/12 at 10:43:55 #7
Gianni P
Dear Mr. Benitez, I'm an Italian supporter of Sampdoria and I'm glad and honoured that you are considering the proposal of Garrone's family about your possible arrival at Sampdoria. Let me say that our colours, our people and team are the best in the Italian enviroment and I'm sure that a great professionist like you will be appreciated and loved by all of us. I can image the stadium the day of the first presentation of your team and I think you will be impressed and you will fall in love with us. Our stadium is the most similar to Premier League stadiums, so I think that the emotions and feelings that it is possible to live are amazing and exceptional in the Italian scenario. You live in Liverpool, great city and great team, but I would ensure you that Genoa (the city not the other team) is one of the best Italian city to live and to conduct a normal live despite your public role. We have a great hystory but now please bring us into the future to new victories!
24/06/12 at 11:06:06 #8
Rafa and Sampdoria
together WE can !!
24/06/12 at 11:22:48 #9
Jim Keen
Hi Rafa. Very interesting read. I am curious to know how you would go about beating Spain?
24/06/12 at 11:28:46 #10
Buongiorno mister,
La francia era poca cosa, formazione completamente sbagliata, giocavano troppo basso senza menez o nasri e benzema doveva ritornare in difesa per prendere palloni.. Se al tottenham preferiscono blanc, non capisco un granche'...MEGLIO per noi visto che abbiamo i colori piu' belli del mondo, una citta' splendida e vogliamo TORNARE GRANDI.
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