Spain Defeats France, Reaches Euro Semifinals -- Alonso Scores Two Goals; Portugal Next on Wednesday

Article excerpt

SPAIN 2, FRANCE 0

DONETSK, Ukraine - Xabi Alonso scored two goals in his 100th international appearance Saturday, leading Spain to a 2-0 win over France and a spot in the European Championship semifinals.

Alonso first scored with a thumping downward header in the 19th minute, then converted a penalty in injury time.

"We knew this was the most important match and we played very well," Alonso said. "Scoring the early goal really made things easier, so I must say we're happy."

The win was Spain's first over France in a competitive match in seven attempts. Spain will next face Portugal on Wednesday in Donetsk in the semifinals as it bids to win a third straight major title.

"When you lose a game there's always something missing, I'm not sure if it's possession or technical ability," France coach Laurent Blanc said. "The lads gave everything and it's very hard to play against Spain. We blocked their left flank, which is their strong point."

The opening goal was the result of excellent one-touch football - the hallmark of Spain's game. Andres Iniesta prodded the ball through for Jordi Alba, who whipped a perfect cross from the left to Alonso. The Real Madrid midfielder timed his run so well that no France defender picked him up.

"He knows how to sacrifice himself, help the team and where to play," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "He is one of the attacking strengths of ours. He knows how to create and finish."

Spain wrapped things up after France right back Anthony Reveillere barged into substitute forward Pedro Rodriguez in injury time. …