EURO 2012 LIVE: Spain vs. France

Associated Press
Spain's Xabi Alonso celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Spain and France in Donetsk, Ukraine, Saturday, June 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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Spain's Xabi Alonso celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal …

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — It's Spain versus France for a place in the European Championship semifinals on Saturday — the most anticipated match of the tournament so far. Here you'll find the best of Saturday's action and pre-match buildup. All times are Polish.

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2243: Two goals from Xabi Alonso on his 100th appearance for Spain sealed victory for the defending champions and an all-Iberian semifinal. France created nothing going forward and is deservedly out after its first loss to Spain in seven competitive matches. Laurent Blanc's side had just one shot on target.

Sunday will see the last of the quarterfinals, as England faces Italy in Kiev. The winner will take on Germany in the semifinals.

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2235: Fulltime: Spain 2, France 0

Spain progresses to semifinals, where it will play Portugal.

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2234: Pedro earns the penalty after being pushed over by Reveillere. Alonso steps up to take the spot kick and sends Lloris the wrong way. That's Spain in the semis!

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2232: GOAL! Spain 2, France 0 (Alonso)

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2230: Penalty for Spain!

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2225: Santi Cazorla is coming on for the final few minutes for Spain, and Andres Iniesta is making way. This is very easy for the Spanish. France is offering precious little going forward.

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2217: France throws on striker Olivier Giroud for defensive midfielder Yann M'Vila in search of the equalizer. Spain is passing the ball around very comfortably, with a little over 10 minutes left for the team to see out. Debuchy's header aside, France has given the defending champions nothing to be concerned about this evening.

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2212: Ribery breaks down the left for France and is ushered into the left-hand corner of the penalty area by a number of Spain defenders. He pulls out a low cross at the last minute into the path of Benzema, but Casillas reads the danger well and claims the ball. It's still 1-0 to Spain with 19 minutes remaining.

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2206: What a pass from Xavi and it takes a great reaction stop from Lloris to prevent his side from being 2-0 down. Fabregas runs onto an exquisite through-ball by his Barcelona teammate and tries to take the ball past the onrushing Lloris with his first touch, but the goalkeeper gets down quickly to block. Torres and Pedro comes on for Fabregas and Silva for Spain.

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2200: Debuchy heads just over for France, which has seen a bit more of the ball in the last few minutes. Spain, however, is on course to record its first ever competitive victory over France and set up a semifinal meeting with Portugal back here in Donetsk.

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2154: Xabi Alonso's goal was his 14th for Spain and he just tried to make it 15, but an effort from long range flies high and wide. In the early stages, Spain has slotted straight back into its trademark passing routine.

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2147: Second half is under way. No changes by either coach.

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2135: Spain deserves its halftime lead and have hardly been troubled by the French, who will have to take a few more chances in the second half. Will Blanc make any changes at halftime? Maybe it's time for Samir Nasri.

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2132: Halftime: Spain 1, France 0.

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2125: Pique could easily have made it 2-0. The center back gets himself into space for a free header from a corner but his attempt from 10 meters goes over the bar. Ribery has a rip down the side of his shirt as he trudges back upfield after that corner. He's not seen much of the ball tonight as he goes in search of a first goal at Euro 2012.

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2119: That's 30 minutes gone and it's 1-0 to Spain. Sergio Ramos is shown a yellow card for blocking off Benzema and Cabaye takes the free kick, which is aiming for the top corner until Casillas tips the ball over the bar.

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2112: The question is, what was Alonso doing up there? He normally stations himself in front of the back four, distributing the ball.

Xavi tries his luck with a shot on the bounce from outside the penalty area, but he gets underneath the ball and it sails over the bar. France has hardly had the ball in the last 10 minutes and it's looking ominous already.

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2107: What a header that is from Alonso — and what a way to celebrate making your 100th cap! Iniesta pokes the ball behind Reveillere and into the path of Alba, who is racing forward from left back. Alba delivers a perfect cross to the back post for the unmarked Alonso, who plants a header into the ground and past Lloris.

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2103: GOAL! Spain 1, France 0 (Xabi Alonso)

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2057: (at)jeromepugmire: Quite a few empty seats in both Spanish and French ends. Perhaps inflated hotel prices put them off when tickets first went on sale. (via Twitter)

Xabi Alonso shoots from inside his own half and it requires Lloris to take the catch or that would have found the net. Good effort from Alonso, who has a history of scoring from inside his own half from his days at Liverpool. Quite an even start here, although Spain has had more possession. No surprise there.

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2051: (at)PaulLogoAP: While Casillas makes his 135th appearance for Spain, (at)XabiAlonso becomes 5th Spanish player with 100 caps against France (via Twitter)

Fabregas appeals for a penalty after clashing with Clichy but the referee waves play on. Seen them given, although he went down easily there.

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2046: France kicks off in front of many empty seats at the Donbass Arena.

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2042: (at)jeromepugmire Zidane and Vieira's birthday today — they both scored the last time France knocked Spain out of a tournament, in last 16 of 2006 World Cup. (via Twitter)

Teams are out and lined up for the anthems.

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2034: Here are the lineups, with Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso set to win his 100th international cap:

Spain: Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas.

France: Hugo Lloris, Anthony Reveillere, Adil Rami, Laurent Koscielny, Gael Clichy, Mathieu Debuchy, Yann M'Vila, Yohan Cabaye, Florent Malouda, Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema.

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1943: France has made four changes, hoping a defensive midfield can slow an attack led by Cesc Fabregas. France coach Laurent Blanc dropped forwards Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa, preferring to move right back Mathieu Debuchy up to partner Franck Ribery behind striker Karim Benzema. Yohan Cabaye and Florent Malouda return in midfield alongside Yann M'Vila, while Laurent Koscielny replaces the suspended Philippe Mexes at center back. Veteran back Anthony Reveillere is on the right. Spain goes with the same lineup it used in its opening 1-1 draw against Italy with Fabregas fronting the six-man midfield rather than Fernando Torres, who had started the other two group games.

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1930: While likening himself to Peter Pan off the pitch, Italy's often volatile striker Mario Balotelli is showing surprising focus in pure football terms before Sunday's showdown with a familiar England squad. The 21-year-old forward met the media for the first time Saturday at the European Championship and revealed how much fun it's going to be facing three of his Manchester City teammates in the quarterfinals — England goalkeeper Joe Hart, center back Joleon Lescott and midfielder James Milner. Balotelli adds, "They know me and I know them. I just hope we win. Even though they're my teammates, I hope they're going to lose." Told about a label his agent had placed on him, Balotelli accepted the comparison, saying "I am a bit of a Peter Pan, because I'm free."

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1920: Steven Gerrard says he wants to prove the doubters wrong by leading England into the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time in 16 years. As the England captain prepares for Sunday's quarterfinal with Italy at the European Championship, Gerrard says his country's teams "haven't shown what we are capable of" in recent years. The midfielder wants to "seize the moment" and "show our doubters and our critics out there we can compete with teams at this level."___

1830: Today, two French legends and World Cup winners are celebrating birthdays: Zinedine Zidane turns 40 and Patrick Vieira is 36. Zidane is the last Frenchman to score in a competitive match against the Spanish. Both he and Vieira scored in a 3-1 victory at the second round of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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1600: Spain has never beaten France in six competitive matches, but they're confident of victory tonight. "Football offers up something nice, which is you always get a chance at revenge and tomorrow night we get that chance," says Sergio Ramos, who played in a 3-1 second-round loss to Les Bleus at the Germany World Cup. "In 2006, we didn't possess the maturity or the experience that we have now. We were in the midst of being formed into a team, with a lot of new players." Since that result, Spain has gone on to hone the quick-touch, possession-based game that led the country to Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup triumphs.

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1530: With three goals so far and some dazzling displays, Cristiano Ronaldo is shaping up to be the player of the tournament at Euro 2012, despite a slow start. Nevertheless, for many he's still in the shadows of Argentina's Lionel Messi. Head-to-head, Messi just shades it in terms of goals. Over the last five years, in all national and international competitions, Messi has scored 247 goals in 306 matches. That's an average of 0.81 goals per match. Ronaldo can boast 237 goals in 299 matches at a slightly-lower 0.79 goals per match.

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1500: There's a mole in the German camp! Germany coach Joachim Loew is trying to plug a leak that has allowed news of his lineup plans to be all over the country's media hours before matches at European Championship. Coach Joachim Loew says he was upset by the leaks and believes agents are passing on information to the media after being informed whether their players have been selected in the starting XI or not. "I've spoken to the players about it. It's not they who leak the lineup directly. There are other channels. We'll find out."

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1445: The English openly admit they won't outplay some of the better teams at Euro 2012, but in terms of tenacity and never-say-die spirit, they've traditionally been up there with the best. Says defender Ashley Cole in a BBC interview: "We're like 11 bulldogs who will never give up, who will always work for each other and basically die on the pitch for each other ... So far, it seems to be working."

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