Spain held off a frenetic but uninspired English attack behind world-class goalkeeping by Luis Arconada to earn a scoreless tie today that eliminated England from the World Cup tournament.

That put West Germany, which edged out England by virtue of its defeat of Spain, into the semifinals where it will play France in Sevilla Thursday. Italy takes on Poland in Barcelona in the other semifinal. England needed to win and score at least two goals today to advance to the semifinals ahead of West Germany.

Nearly 80,000 Spanish fans showed remarkable patience as the home team--already eliminated--missed several wide-open chances and continually let the English look like the better team.

The Spaniards celebrated the tie as if it had been a clear victory, and it was clear that they gained some satisfaction in eliminating England. The countries have tense political relations, largely because of Britain's control of Gibraltar, and several white and red Gibraltar flags were visible throughout the crowd--although one, carried by a young Englishman, had a Union Jack in its corner.

The first half was poorly played, with bad passes abounding, but the action picked up in the second 45 minutes. Still, the Spanish lacked a good finishing touch to their attacks and the British constantly were stymied by Arconada.

At the 56th minute, Miguel-Angel Alonso missed his fourth clear shot, at a wide open net. Ten minutes later, Arconada stopped a shot by Trevor Brooking at point-blank range.

Not to be altogether outdone, Peter Shilton, who had little work thanks to the poor marksmanship of the Spanish attackers, saved an excellent header by Jose-Ramon Alesanco right on the goal line.

England attacked the Spanish goal repeatedly in the first half, although many of those forays ended with harmless passes.

Paul Mariner and Bryan Robson were able to break free for headers that narrowly missed the mark, and with two minutes left in the half Arconada made two sparkling saves in rapid succession, diving to his right to cut down hard shots by Trevor Francis and Robson. The English had a 9-2 advantage in corner kicks.

Although Spain spent much of the first half pinned in its own end of the field, Alonso had excellent opportunities at 11, 15 and 22 minutes.

But the best chance to score in the half, perhaps in the game, came 37 minutes into the match, when Jesus Satrustegui and Santillana chased down a loose ball in the penalty area. Neither was able to control it and put it into an empty net.