x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Euro 2012: Spain will stick with philosophy

"Whatever people say I don't think we are going to change," said the midfielder Xabi Alonso ahead of the champions' semi-final match against Portugal.

Xabi Alonso signs an autograph for a young fan before a news conference where the Spain midfielder was adamant his side would stick to their passing principles. Alvaro Barrientos / AP Photo
Xabi Alonso signs an autograph for a young fan before a news conference where the Spain midfielder was adamant his side would stick to their passing principles. Alvaro Barrientos / AP Photo

GNIEWINO, Poland // Spain are not about to change the way they play because some believe that their possession-based style makes them boring to watch, Xabi Alonso said yesterday.

The world and European champions' 2-0 defeat of France in Saturday's Euro 2012 quarter-final prompted criticism in Italian and other media that they lack attacking ambition. Also, neutral fans at the game in Donetsk whistled and booed Spain for failing to provide a more entertaining spectacle.

"That's their opinion and just as valid as any other," the Spain midfielder said at a news conference held at the team's training base as they prepare for tomorrow's last-four clash with Portugal at the Donbass Arena.

"Whatever people say I don't think we are going to change. I am pretty sure that most of the fans are enjoying great football games and great football teams. I think that's great not just for the present but also for the future of this tournament."

Alonso, 30, the Real Madrid stalwart, scored both goals against France on his 100th international appearance. Flanked by his teammate, Cesc Fabregas, Alonso said Spain, Portugal and the other two teams through to the semi-finals, Germany and Italy, were all sides that liked to keep the ball, control games and look to attack at every opportunity. He said: "The teams that are there deserve it."

He said Spain would not draw up plans to counter the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, his Real teammate and the Portugal captain.

"We always play with the same idea whoever the opponent. In this case, we will analyse Cristiano's game and there may be small adjustments but we will try to play as a team because that's the best way to stop a player."

Ronaldo has scored in each of Portugal's last two games, taking his tally in Poland and Ukraine to three in four matches.

Sergio Busquets, Spain's holding midfielder who plies his club football with Barcelona, believes they must pay particular attention to Portugal's wing play and come to the aid of full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, when necessary.

In quotes reported by www.marca.com, Busquets said: "We all know what a great player Cristiano is. He'll spend a lot of time on Arbeloa's side, but you need to work together as a team to stop a player like him."

Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, was also well aware of the dangers Ronaldo poses.

He said: "It's tough trying to stop a player with his qualities. He's extremely dangerous both when he has space and without it."

Gerard Pique, the defender, agreed, adding: "He's one of the best in the world and if we want to stop him it will have to be a collective effort."

But his Spain teammate Xavi backed Arbeloa in his encounter with Ronaldo.

"We have a great full-back in Arbeloa, who is among the best out there, defensively speaking.

"We'll try to cover for him, to make sure Ronaldo doesn't settle and we don't let him turn."

The mood in the Spanish camp was sombre yesterday following the news on Sunday that the Real Betis defender Miquel Roque, 23, who had played in Barcelona's youth ranks, had lost a battle with cancer.

The Spanish players were also deeply affected by the sudden death of the former Sporting Gijon coach Manuel Preciado, who had agreed to take over at the relegated Villarreal next season.

"If there were already many reasons for us to want to win this European Championship, the death of two such important figures in Spanish football is now an extra motivation," Fabregas said.