Euro 2012 Quarterfinals: Most Surprising Stars Who Shined on the Big Stage
The quarterfinals of the 2012 Euros were dominated by members of the Real Madrid football club, as Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo led Spain and Portugal to victories and semifinal berths.
Alonso and Casillas are known for their defensive prowess, yet the two accounted for Spain's offense and defense when their team defeated France. Alonso scored Spain's only two goals of the game, marking the midfielder's 14th and 15th career scores on the day of his 100th international contest.
"I could never have imagined to reach my 100th cap, to go to the semis and score two goals," Alonso said, per the LA Times. "Hopefully the 101st will be better."
Had Casillas not come up with a diving stop against Croatia in the round previous, Alonso and Spain wouldn't have even had the chance.
"It was a good save, but not a great save," said Casillas, via the Irish Examiner. "It was just one more save to make sure we kept a clean sheet, which is what we always want to do."
Casillas got his clean sheet against Croatia, leading his team to a 1-0 win. He followed that performance up with another shutout against France and their talented forward duo of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery.
The Real Madrid stars were burning bright throughout the quarterfinals, and their successes were coming in twos.
Alonso netted two scores on France, Casillas posted his second consecutive shutout and Ronaldo nailed a second game-winner in as many matches when Portugal defeated the Czech Republic 1-0.
"The Czechs didn't have a single chance," Ronaldo said after the game, as reported by the Boston Globe.
His header in the 79th minute was the deciding factor in the matchup with the Czech Republic. It followed two shots that planked right off the post.
But, Ronaldo wasn't the only one knocking in head shots. The last of Alonso's two goals was a beautifully orchestrated header right out of Ronaldo's highlight reel.
It had been so long that, when asked, Alonso couldn't remember the last time he'd scored in such a fashion.
"You'll have to look in Wikipedia," he joked, via the Winnipeg Free Press.
Spain and Portugal were certainly pleased to see their Real Madrid talent produce when it counted. Both sides will need even more from their stars when they face off in the semifinals on June 27.
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