On a night that he is unlikely to ever forget, Xabi Alonso marked his 100th international appearance by steering holders Spain through to the semi-finals with both goals in a 2-0 defeat of France – a performance that duly earned him the Carlsberg Man of the Match Award.
The 30-year-old Real Madrid CF man was the difference between the sides in Donetsk as he joined Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernández as the third centurion in Vicente del Bosque's squad. "He is a very good team player," said the Spain coach afterwards. "He knows how to help in midfield and on the flanks and he's one of greatest attacking strengths we have. He knows how to create chances and finish them. He's a complete midfielder."
The former Liverpool FC player went into the match having notched just 13 goals in his 99 previous outings but, after first trying his luck with a trademark long-range shot, he made the breakthrough on 19 minutes following a surging run from his holding position. Meeting Jordi Alba's cross from the left at the far post, he nodded the ball back towards the opposite corner for a rare headed goal.
"I don't score many," he explained afterwards. "You'll have to check for the last." The midfielder then moved his international tally on to 15 in added time after Pedro Rodríguez was fouled in the area. He stepped up for the resultant spot kick and ended any lingering tension by sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way.
Having made his debut under Iñaki Sáez while still at Real Sociedad de Fútbol in 2003, he is now the fifth Spain player overall to rack up his century – and he is hoping for more to celebrate when Spain face Portugal in the last four on Wednesday. "To get my 100th cap, reach the semis and score twice – I'm really happy it went that way," he added. "I hope the 101st is even better."
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