So France have crashed out of Euro 2012 following an unsurprising 2-0 defeat to Spain, their first ever tournament victory over les Bleus, thanks to two Xabi Alonso goals in Donetsk. The Spanish were also helped largely by Laurent Blanc’s ultra-conservative team selection and France’s anaemic attack given that only Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema could be counted as attacking threats in the starting XI.
Blanc’s gameplan was evidently to soak up wave after wave of Spanish pressure and then hit Vicente Del Bosque’s side on the counterattack. However, this plan was blown away by Alonso’s 19th minute header and France never really looked like getting back in it from there.
Les Bleus showed some fight in the second half but were once again lacking penetration up front and struggled to create any clear chances. Alonso notched a second though when Anthony Réveillère brought down Pedro Rodriguez and the Real Madrid man converted the spot kick. There was further controversy after the whistle as midfielder Samir Nasri was involved in an altercation with a French journalist, capping a miserable end to a tournament that promised so much but delivered so little for the French.
Suspended defender Philippe Mexès was replaced by Laurent Koscielny, Réveillère came in at right-back as Mathieu Debuchy pushed forward on to right midfield. Yann M'Vila assumed the sole defensive midfield role and was supported by Yohan Cabaye and Florent Malouda.
Karim Benzema yet again failed to register his first goal of the tournament and cut a frustrated figure up top, Real Madrid teammate Iker Casillas was rarely tested by the former OL man.
Spain immediately took control of proceedings and made the breakthrough in the 19th minute. Andrés Iniesta released Jordi Alba in behind Réveillère and the left-back's cross picked out the unmarked Alonso for the opening goal, heading past Hugo Lloris who could do nothing to prevent it.
Les Bleus began to enjoy more possession as the first period pressed on however; their best chance came from a Cabaye free-kick from distance that was tipped over by Casillas, a familiar story in this tournament.
Blanc resisted the need to make changes as half-time and the side suffered a disappointing exit as their attacking deficiencies cost them dearly.
Debuchy, Benzema and Ribéry looked more dangerous in the second period as they started to enjoy some possession and came close to the Spanish penalty area. However, they were unable to muster anything of real note and fans were left baffled by Blanc’s decision to only introduce Ligue 1 top scorer last year Olivier Giroud with ten minutes remaining.
In all, a very disappointing display with France lacking direction and drive meaning that Spain never even had to be at their best to reach the semi-finals. Blanc’s team selection showed far too much respect to the reigning champions and this generation will now have to wait until 2014 for another chance to prove themselves, assuming they qualify.
Spain now progress to the semi-finals of the competition where they will meet neighbours Portugal in the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
More to come on France's failure...