Spain 2 France 0: Victory is important thing for Alonso the centurion

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso insisted helping his team reach the semi-finals of Euro 2012 was more important than winning his 100th cap after scoring twice on Saturday night to knock out France.

The former Liverpool man played a big part in ensuring the defending champions overcame Les Bleus 2-0 with a first-half header and a late penalty in Donetsk.

Spain will now meet Portugal in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

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“We’re through to the semi-finals, which was the main thing,” the Real Madrid player said. “We’re pleased about that. The 100 caps is just an extra.

“It’s in these matches that we have to show what we’re about. We controlled it from start to finish. The team made things easy.

“I was happy about my 100th game and the goals. We know every game is difficult now but we’re in the semi-finals and we’re going to give it everything.

“We controlled the match, though we knew it wouldn’t be easy against opponents that were defending deep.

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“It became easier after the goal. It was a big quarter-final game and you have to know how to play them.

“We are very happy because we knew it was a game where we had to slog and we have done that,” he said. “We had control of the game from start to finish despite having only a few chances.

“Personally I had satisfaction for the game we have played and to have scored two goals, but the most important thing is that we are in the semi-finals.”

And the former Liverpool man believes it is more important for the Spanish to concentrate on their own performance in the semi-finals than worry about the threat posed by his Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

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“At this stage all the games are difficult and we know Cristiano perfectly,” said Alonso.

“We have to concentrate on ourselves and try to make a game like today or even better.”

Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas knows Spain face a stiff test against Portugal.

“Portugal will be very difficult,” he said. “They have strong individuals, strong players.

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“Apart from their good open play, they are very good on the counter-attack, and we’ll have to work hard in that game.

“They have Ronaldo, Nani, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho. They have very good players.”

Fabregas was pleased with Spain’s performance against Laurent Blanc’s side, and with his own contribution.

“We played really well in the first half – actually one of the best first halves in the tournament,” said the former Arsenal captain, who led Spain’s attack with Fernando Torres starting on the bench.

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“I played a bit better, but we were playing against France, who played very well. We are very happy now.

“I tried hard, and I ran a lot. I feel good. No matter what happens, the most important thing is that Spain won.”

Defender Sergio Ramos added: “This Spain team have taken a step forward. We showed what we’re about in this victory and we’re in the semi-finals now.

“We have to carry this on all the way to the final. We can’t rest on our laurels because every game is a final. Portugal have done really well to get to the semi-finals, so it will be difficult.”

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Spain coach Vicente del Bosque praised the control shown by his side. Alonso put the defending champions in front with a fine header from Jordi Alba’s cross after 19 minutes.

The midfielder then made the game safe in stoppage time from the penalty spot after Laurent Koscielny had upended Pedro Rodriguez inside the area.

Despite not hitting their top form, Del Bosque was delighted with how his side restricted the French to just one shot on target

“The truth is we did well and controlled the game,” said Del Bosque. “Iker (Casillas) hardly had anything to do and that speaks of the good defensive performance of the team.

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“If our defenders are good then we will be closer to winning the tournament because we will always create a chance.”

The former Real Madrid boss was particularly pleased with Alonso’s determination to make the run into the box that resulted in the first goal, and reiterated his belief that both he and Sergio Busquets offer important options going forward.

“Alonso is one of the players that has scored most in my time as manager,” said the coach. “I already know that he and Busquets are a controversial pairing but I always defend that these are more attacking footballers than defensive ones.They have an extraordinary awareness of the team.”

Del Bosque voiced concerns about having less time off than Portugal ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final, though, and hinted he could be forced to freshen his side up if the heat in Donetsk is as severe as it was on Saturday evening.

“We have two less days to rest than them and I am thinking about this,” he said. “It is a small handicap. We have arrived very drained because the heat was cruel on the players.”