| SPAIN is one step closer to defending its current Euro Cup title after literally walking to victory in the face of a flaky effort from France.
Despite being without a striker, Spain was 1-0 up on France from early on in the match and finally clinched it thanks to a 91st-minute penalty by midfielder Xabi Alonso, playing for his country for the 100th time.
France barely managed to make a mark, with less than 35 per cent possession, the only threat they posed to La Roja being when right-back Mathieu Débuchy headed a Franck Ribéry cross-over.
Spain's last-minute decision to replace Fernando Torres with Barça midfielder Cesc Fàbregas, leaving them without a recognised striker, was no barrier to their first-ever victory over France in an official match.
Fàbregas, taking a pass from Alonso looked as though he would score the first goal of the match until he was brought down by Les Bleus' Gaël Clichy, although Italian ref Nicola Rizzoli – who was taking a particularly harsh line throughout the game – refused to award a penalty.
At this point, however, Spain decided to get its act together and with Iniesta passing wide to left-back Jordi Alba who, marked by Débuchy but nevertheless leaving him standing as he crossed to the far post and passed to Alonso, brought the Reds their first goal as Alonso headed back across the keeper and into the net.
Alba, Iniesta, Xavi and right-back Álvaro Aloa had France constantly on their toes and committing frequent blunders, whilst Iker Casillas tipped over a free kick awarded to the Blues' midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
In spite of a sudden surge in effort by a previously-insipid French side, Spain managed to hold possession throughout and left its rivals looking rather amateurish and decidedly over-faced.
French striker Karim Benzema managed to miss scoring a single goal, and team-mate Anthony Reveillère handed victory to Spain on a plate when they were awarded a penalty after he brought down Spanish sub Pedro during injury time.
Already hero of the hour, Alonso effortlessly converted Spain's penalty, giving them an easy 2-0 win and assuring their place in the semi-finals.