Expert analysis of the events in Poland and Ukraine
With a squawk, splutter and explosion of feathers, the French chicken was squished under the hooves of the mighty Spanish bull on Saturday night, becoming the latest victims of la Roja over the past few years. In Spain’s quest to become the bestest team in the world, a number of formerly scary sides such as Italy, Germany, Holland and now France have been vanquished.
The latter were a team that had previously gone undefeated in six competitive games, so the sense of relief in Spain was quite tangible, but not until Xabi Alonso put away his penalty-kick.
However, despite a nervy spell in the second half when Spain resolutely refused to score another goal, the French did not put up much of a contest in the quarterfinal clash, causing Tomás Roncero of AS to wonder why it took so long to put them to the sword, and to look ahead with some confidence to Wednesday’s semi-final against Portugal and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
“You know I love you as you were my brother, but on Wednesday you know you are going to lose,” said the columnist with a degree of bravado LLL doesn’t currently agree with.
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Although Spain are still not exactly firing on all cylinders, with just three shots on goal in the game, the mood in reaction to Saturday’s result is a very sprightly one. Former Atlético Madrid manager Gregorio Manzano argues in Marca that France’s failure to turn up for large chunks of the game was the result of Spanish hard work and tactical brilliance more than anything else. “If Ribery or Benzema didn’t play more, it’s because they couldn’t and weren’t allowed to,” claimed Manzano.
AS are fairly chirpy too, but the paper’s editorial is refusing to let this whole 'lack of a real striker' business drop off the agenda. “We’ll keep discussing the No.9 as the case is open (Torres was bad when he played) but the team is there. And it’s a great team.”
There was even joy to be found in Catalonia, with Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo putting the boot into Laurent Blanc, with Santi Nolla writing that “he thought more about Spain than France when it came to choosing the team.” Sport do the job of silencing any grumblers about the less-than-scintillating Barcelona-style performance, with Josep Maria Casanovas reminding everyone that “four years ago we needed penalties to knock-out Italy. Now they’ve beaten France with superiority and tranquility.”
Although, in retrospect, Spain have been quite comfortable in most games, conceding just one goal along the way, the locals are still waiting for the side to really catch fire and give someone a battering. However, a fairly conservative ‘don’t concede and don’t lose’ approach from Vicente Del Bosque means that the Spanish support may not get what they wish and the remaining one or two matches in the tournament could follow the pattern of the previous two and be fairly tense affairs.
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