Spain's deliberate style easy to criticize but hard to stop as it rolls past France and into the semis

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

Spain's all-conquering national team has been rocked by accusations it is "boring" despite moving to within two games of officially becoming the greatest side ever.

A 2-0 victory over France in Donetsk on Saturday night moved Spain into a semifinal showdown with Portugal at Euro 2012 and kept alive its dream of being the first team to win three straight major tournaments.

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Criticism of Xabi Alonso (left) and Spain is growing. (Getty Images)

However, yet another comfortable performance was not enough to appease critics who have started to pick holes in the team's precise and structured style of play – and are growing in voice.

When French fans whistled and jeered as Spain's players passed the ball between themselves in the second half, the Spanish supporting contingent did nothing by way of verbal counter.

With the sole exception of a romping 4-0 destruction of the Republic of Ireland in its second group game, each of Spain's performances at this tournament have been met with some form of flak, and this was no different.

Critics complain the passing game mastered by club side Barcelona and adopted wholeheartedly by the national team is too labored, too slow in its build-up and lacking in both pace and excitement.

Such jibes have stunned Spain's stars, who argue that giving the nation its first major trophy for 46 years at Euro 2008, backing it up by clinching the World Cup two years ago and staying unbeaten at these Euros should be good enough to ensure positive reviews.

"All the debate speaks volumes about the demands made on us," said defender Alvaro Arbeloa. "People don't seem to realize that in a competition like this the difficulty is huge. You can't win every game 3-0. You can't be brilliant every time. The opposition play too but it is as if they don't exist."

[Related: Cristiano Ronaldo outshoots Czechs, puts Portugal in semifinals]

Spain had won its six previous games in the knockout stages of tournaments 1-0, and this contest appeared to be heading the same way until Xabi Alonso knocked home a penalty kick in the final minute to extend the advantage.

It was a memorable night for Alonso, who celebrated his 100th appearance for his country with a pair of goals, the first coming after 19 minutes with a perfectly-placed header after Jordi Alba crossed from the left.

France, beset by such serious disharmony in its camp that head coach Laurent Blanc was forced to go public with its details, had neither the talent nor the will to respond. Such a spineless French display certainly made Spain's life easier, but also gave extra ammunition to the Spanish doubters.

A tougher task surely awaits in the form of a Portugal side led by Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored three goals in his past two games including a late winner against the Czech Republic.

Either way, don't expect the Spanish approach to be any different. The only chance of a change in the tactical blueprint will be if it no longer works, and there is nothing to suggest anyone is close to discovering an appropriate antidote.

It may be increasingly unpopular, but Spain's incremental approach, based on retaining possession at all costs, has delivered an extraordinary run of success that is close to adding another golden chapter.

[Related: Xabi powers Spain to semis | Photos]

Against France, head coach Vicente del Bosque did not even use one recognized striker from the start, with Fernando Torres being left on the bench until late in the second half.

Easy on the eye or not, Spain's way is mightily effective and, in this tournament especially, has allowed the team to win and progress even when it is not playing at its best or most fluid.

"In the past we suffered and we were out," said midfielder Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final in South Africa. "Now we suffer, and we win. We have made the exceptional into something routine."

The onus is on the rest of Europe – and the rest of the world – to force Spain out of its comfortable slow dance, not on the reigning champion to alter a winning formula just because it offends a few.

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