Euro 2012 Live Blog: Xabi Alonso Celebrates 100 Caps, Ruins Zinedine Zidane’s Birthday With Two Goals in Spain’s Win Over France

Euro 2012 Live Blog: Xabi Alonso Celebrates 100 Caps, Ruins Zinedine Zidane's Birthday With Two Goals in Spain's Win Over FranceFinal, 2-0 Spain: Spain is through to the Euro 2012 semifinal thanks to a comfortable win over France.

Alonso will get the plaudits for scoring both goals, but Spain's team was simply better than France for just about the entire game.

France will be disappointed by the manner of defeat. Blanc gambled and lost, as his selection and tactics simply backfired in the first half. Les Blues improved slightly in the second half, but the gulf in class was too much to overcome.

The result sets up an all-Iberian derby date in the semifinal. Spain will play Portugal on June 27 with a trip to the final on the line.

That's all for now and thanks for joining us. Let's discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.

90th minute, 2-0 Spain: Alonso buries the penalty kick to ensure the victory.

90th minute, 1-0 Spain: Pedro wins a penalty after Reveillere brings him down in the area.

85th minute, 1-0 Spain: Let's call a spade a spade. This game has been a dud.

Spain did all it needed to do. Score early and make France do all the work and hard running. It's all gone according to plan so far.

79th minute, 1-0 Spain: Giroud is coming on for M'Vila. It's one future Arsenal FC player coming on for another future Gunner.

Neither have signed on the dotted line, but both could be headed for North London within 14 days.

77th minute, 1-0 Spain: But the Spanish still have the advantage. The sheer amount of big games this group of players — Casillas, Ramos, Pique, Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta chief among them — has played will help them absorb whatever France throws their way.

76th minute, 1-0 Spain: The French substitutes have given their team proper balance. Ribery and Menez run the wings. Nasri, sitting behind the lone-striker Benzema, can cause Spain trouble from all over the field.

71st minute, 1-0 Spain: Ribery is looking increasingly dangerous in the second half, and France is growing in confidence.

67th minute, 1-0 Spain: Fabregas makes way for Torres. The chess match between managers Blanc and Vicente del Bosque is on.

64th minute, 1-0 Spain: Both teams are making changes. Debuchy is departing for Menez, and Nasri replaces Malouda.

Spain is bringing in Pedro, who replaces Silva.

59th minute, 1-0 Spain: Spain is still in control of the game, but France has shown slight improvement.

French players are starting to use their edge in speed and strength to their advantage.

46th minute, 1-0 Spain: Blanc makes no changes at halftime. Did France players just get a good talking to?

Halftime, 1-0 Spain: It was business as usual in the first half for Spain and its group of champions. Alonso's goal gave Spain a deserved advantage.

France has got to do something to make it tough for Spain. Maybe it's calling on some fresh legs. It's certainly a tense scene in the French dressing room.

Players and coaches were (verbally) fighting with each other after the loss against Sweden. Blanc said all was resolved, but old wounds will likely reopen here.

36th minute, 1-0 Spain: Perhaps we're a being too hard on Blanc. When the Spanish are playing at its championship level, as they are doing so far against France, how does one go about stopping them?

He set out to stifle Spain with a few players whose sepcialty is defense, but if they are playing wihtout the focus (aggression) needed to make things uncomfortable for Spain then what's the point?

22nd minute, 1-0 Spain: France boss Blanc started Reveillere and Debuchy on the right — two fullbacks, who were bypassed with ease in the play that lead to the goal.

Alonso was able to get forward from his position deep in the midfield to get on the end of Alba's (delightful) cross. M'vila, Malouda and Clichy should have tracked him or picked him up, but they didn't. So much for that "defense first" mentality with which the French were supposedly taking into the game.

19th minute, 1-0 Spain: Alonso's emphatic header gives Spain the lead.

Iniesta and Alba combined on the left to open up the French defense. Alba floated a cross to the far post, and Alonso waltzed forward and headed it past Lloris with some power.

What a nice way for Alonso to celebrate his 100th appearance for his country.

15th minute, 0-0: Euro 2012 is still waiting for that classic, even iconic game. Many fans were thinking that this would be it, but the first quarter of an hour has yielded little.

Spain is seeing more of the ball, but it hasn't been able to break through France's last line of defense.

Sixth minute, 0-0: We have our first bit of controversy as Clichy appeared to trip up Fabregas in the area.

A ball was coming over the top and the two players were chasing it. Maybe Fabregas would have controlled it and done something with it. But it was unlikely.

The referee swallowed his whistle, and allowed play to continue.

Pregame: French boss Laurent Blanc is taking a major gamble with all these changes.

He's benched Nasri, Diarra and Evra, while center back Mexes misses out due to suspension.

Spain is going without a recognized striker, as it did in the 1-1 draw against Italy in the tournament opener.

Before we start, here's a happy birthday shout out to Zinedine Zidane. "Zizou" turned 40 on Saturday.

2 p.m: Here are the lineups:

Spain

Iker Casillas (1), goalkeeper
Alvaro Arbeloa (17), right back
Sergio Ramos (15), center back
Gerard Pique (3), center Back
Jordi Alba (18), left back
Sergio Busquets (16), midfielder
Xavi (8), midfielder
Xabi Alonso (14), midfielder
Andres Iniesta (6), forward
David Silva (21), forward
Cesc Fabregas (10), forward

Substitutes

Victor Valdes (12), goalkeeper
Pepe Reina (23), goalkeeper
Raul Albiol (2), defender
Javi Martinez (4), defender
Juanfran (5), defender
Santi Cazorla (20), midfielder
Jesus Navas (22), midfielder
Pedro (7), forward
Juan Mata (13), forward
Fernando Torres (9), striker
Alvaro Negredo (11), striker
Fernando Llorente (19), striker

France

Hugo Lloris (1), goalkeeper
Mathieu Debuchy (2), right back
Adil Rami (4), center back
Laurent Koscielny (21), center back
Gael Clichy (22), left back
Yann M'Vila (17), midfielder
Anthony Reveillere (13), midfielder
Yahan Cabaye (6), midfielder
Flourent Malouda (15), midfieler
Franck Ribery (7), forward
Karim Benzema (10), striker

Substitutes

Steve Mandanda (16), goalkeeper
Cedric Carrasso (23), goalkeeper
Patrice Evra (3), defender
Mathieu Valbuena (8), midfielder
Samir Nasri (11), midfielder
Blaise Matuidi (12), midfileder
Jeremy Menez (14), midfielder
Alou Diarra (18), midfielder
Marvin Martin (19), midfielder
Hatem Ben Arfa (20), midfielder
Olivier Giroud (9), striker

12:00 a.m. ET: Two giants of international soccer lock horns on Saturday, as France and Spain meet in the quarterfinal round of the 2012 UEFA European Championship.

Although Spain is the reigning titan of international soccer, France actually has the advantage in the series. The two teams have played each other six times in major tournaments, and Spain has never beaten France. France's victory in the Euro 1984 final still looms in the memories of fans of both countries.

The last time these teams met in such a high-pressure situation was in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Then, Zinedine Zidane scored to cap a 3-1 win in the quarterfinal. It was the last time Spain has conceded a goal in the knockout rounds of either the World Cup or European Championship, a stretch spanning seven games. History will mean little and Zidane will be in the stands when the two teams take the field.

Spain emerged as winners of Group C by scoring the most goals (six) and conceding the fewest (one) in the group stages of Euro 2012. But questions remain about the defending champion. Critics say Spain hasn't played its best soccer, and some wonder if this group will be able to raise its level in a "win or go home" situation.

France had a good start in Group D, but something happened in the finale. Sweden, who seemed like it was on the verge of implosion, handily beat France. This reportedly led to verbal confrontations within the French camp, but manager Laurent Blanc has quickly moved to downplay them. Those stories could be mere theories, but what is a fact is that France has not gotten much from its strikers. In fact, it is the only remaining team whose strikers have yet to score. Surely this is a concern for Blanc.

Join us at 2 p.m. for all the action between Spain and France.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O'Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer, NESN Soccer's Facebook page or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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