June 24, 2012
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Alonso puts himself forward with double

Reigning champions Spain will be entitled to ask who needs strikers when you have even defensive midfielders who score goals at Euro 2012.

Coach Vicente Del Bosque left Fernando Torres on the bench against France in preferring his "false number nine" Cesc Fabregas as a striker.

But it was tough tackling Xabi Alonso, whom nobody would ever mistake for a number nine of any description, who delivered the goods on his 100th international appearance with a header and a penalty to see off France in their Euro 2012 quarter-final.

"There's a lot of personal satisfaction in getting to 100 caps and of course getting on the scoresheet," said Alonso after the Spanish booked a semi-final showdown with Portugal in Donetsk on Wednesday - where he will come up against Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo as well as defender Pepe.

"We are now in the semis and of course all the games at this stage are life and death. We didn't have that many chances but we had the match totally under control," said the 30-year-old former Liverpool star.

Regarding facing Portugal he told broadcaster Telecinco: "We know all about Cristiano. But we are not afraid."

Alonso told Cope radio that "I think we had things well under control throughout - it was never going to be easy but I thought we played just great."

There has been criticism of the Spanish in some quarters after they drew to begin with in their pool opener against Italy and then just crept past Croatia while Del Bosque has been happy to keep Torres in reserve when it suits the former's game plan.

But the plan worked once again with Alonso stepping into the goalscoring breach.

Del Bosque himself dismissed the critics, telling journalists that "the debate is more yours than ours."

He preferred to laud Alonso for bossing the contest and closing the door on the French, whom the Spaniards had not previously beaten in a major tournament.

"He is a player who has a real sense of the value of the team, he makes sacrifices and when he has to lend a hand in defence or out wide he does so - and when we have the ball he sets about constructing moves.

"He is the complete midfielder."

Alonso said regarding the earlier brickbats: "I'm not bothered about the criticism. We have to work for it as today in football there's not very much between the teams.

"The most important step is the next one," said Alonso, who went off clutching the shirt of another Real Madrid colleague Karim Benzema and who Saturday became just the fifth member of the Furia Roja's ton-up club.

AFP

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