Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso's imperious display against France was particularly eye-catching amid a series of impressive performances in the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals. Cristiano Ronaldo emphasised his class, Miroslav Klose wrote another chapter in his remarkable international career and Andrea Pirlo mimicked what may be the most famous penalty of all, that of Antonín Panenka in the 1976 UEFA European Championship final. However, Alonso set himself apart with a two-goal masterclass on his 100th cap.
Spain now face Portugal in the semi-finals in Donetsk on Wednesday, with Germany playing Italy in Warsaw the following day. "The four sides who have reached the semis are excellent," said Alonso. "They've performed well to get this far and the games have been really entertaining which is good for the tournament. The best thing is that each of the remaining teams wants to win the ball, dominate possession and to use it to attack. We all deserve to have come this far."
All but one of Alonso's 15 international goals have come since Vicente del Bosque took the reins in 2008, something partially explained by his partnership with FC Barcelona's Sergio Busquets in the centre of midfield. "Busi has my back; he allows me to venture forward significantly more than I'm entitled to do with my club," the 30-year-old explained.
That three of Paulo Bento's key men – Ronaldo, Pepe and Fábio Coentrão – share a club changing room with Alonso at Real Madrid CF also entitles him to run the rule over his team's next opponents, Portugal, who Spain eliminated from the FIFA World Cup two years ago. Although Alonso says there "have not been great changes" in the two squads since South Africa, he fully expects a game "as intense as Italy v England".
Alonso, however, is adamant that Spain will not alter their style for Portugal, not even to account for the threat of Ronaldo. "I've spoken to all three of the guys during this tournament and it's no surprise that they have carried on their excellent form from our domestic season," he said. "For all the talk about Ronaldo we won't change our style and we don't have a special marking plan. We'll study his play and we might make minor adjustments but our best defence is to play as a team and not give him space."
Alonso's team-mate Cesc Fábregas is equally clear about Portugal's strengths. "There might be three Real Madrid players in their side but they have a distinct style" he said. "Portugal have a midfield which likes to hold the ball and use it well. Portugal have a strong counterattack, but if I was a coach and had Nani and Ronaldo I'd probably play that way too."
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