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Alonso has ´special connection´ with England

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Jun 2012

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Spain’s Xabi Alonso has admitted he has a ‘special connection’ with England – a country La Roja may face in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

The Spaniards progressed to the final 16 after struggling to overcome Croatia, with substitute Jesus Navas tapping in the all-important winner in the 88th minute.

The reigning European and world champions clinched top spot in Group C with the three points, setting up a possible tie against Roy Hodgson’s side.

And the former Liverpool midfielder revealed his fondness for the country where he spent five years.

“(It could be) England, France or Ukraine (in the quarter-final),” he told Spanish TV channel Telecinco.

“I have a special connection with England, but we must wait until tomorrow.

“I hope I have the chance to play my game with (the) Spanish national team. (It was) a great achievement.”

The 1-0 result on Monday night was cruel on Croatia who had the better of the chances.

None were more gilt-edged than when Ivan Rakitic was denied from six yards out after his header was saved at point-blank range by Iker Casillas, and Alonso acknowledged that their opposition were always going to be difficult to overcome.

“Every match is difficult. We knew Croatia were going to be a powerful opponent,” Alonso said.

“We had to suffer, and you must suffer to deliver. It tastes good when it’s hard to achieve it (the victory).”

After Italy had beaten Ireland 2-0, a win for Croatia would have sent the holders out of the tournament, and the 29-year-old agreed that advancing to the knockout was never a formality.

“We never thought that a tie would be okay. We knew we couldn’t afford any risk,” Alonso said.

“(There was) a quiet celebration at the dressing room but we must go on and keep calm.”

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