Donetsk, Ukraine. There may have been nothing to choose between the two for 120 minutes but Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas insisted after his country’s Euro 2012 semi-final penalty shootout win over Portugal that the triumph was written in the stars.
Fabregas converted the winning penalty in a 4-2 penalty success after the two teams had cancelled each other out in Donetsk, then revealed he should actually have taken an earlier effort.
“They told me I was going to take the second kick but I said no, I wanted to take the fifth one
“I had a premonition, an intuition that things were going to come off and that life had reserved something for me as nice as this,” he told Telecinco.
Central defender Sergio Ramos, who helped to shackle Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, was also delighted, doubly so as he had missed for his club from the spot in the Champions League semi-final loss to Bayern Munich.
“This time I had no doubts. I was really up for it after what happened in the semis with my club. I was calm,” he told Telecinco. “It was a tough match but we have to be happy with our showing. I am so proud to be Spanish,” he added.
Looking forward to facing either the Germans or the Italians in Sunday’s final, he added: “May the best team win. We have already done our work and now we can dream of another final.”
Keeper Iker Casillas, who saved crucially from Joao Moutinho, said the Spanish should be proud of themselves as they head into the trophy match looking to become the first team ever to win three straight major trophies after Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
“Not many are capable of such; we’ll surely come to remember this moment, above all when the time comes that we are no longer reaching finals,” said Casillas, whose exploits helped to wreck the dreams of clubmates Ronaldo and Pepe, two of Portugal’s standout performers.
“We have had to scrap for it and we have endured criitcizm,” Casillas told Radio Cope in allusion to fans and media opining that la Roja have lacked sparkle at this tournament.
“Now I hope everyone is happy, fans, the press, the players. And I hope we can keep on making them happy.”
But having guessed right with Moutinho, while Bruno Alves hit the bar, Casillas admitted: “Penalties are really a question of luck. It’s not long ago I knew the bitter side of the coin,” he noted, in allusion to Real’s loss to Bayern.
The Rein (and Pain) in Spain
Thousands of Spanish fans gathered in Madrid on Wednesday to watch their side’s Euro 2012 semi-final against Portugal on giant screens, erupting in joy after the 4-2 win on penalties.
The atmosphere had been highly charged even before the penalty shoot-out in Donetsk, Ukraine, with the sound of whistles and firecrackers ringing out across the Spanish capital even before the first spot kicks were taken.
The fans had gathered from early evening outside Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium, while others massed in bars across the city, draped in the yellow and red national flag, and spilled out on to the pavements.
Waring replica red shirts of the national side and with their cheeks painted yellow and red, they waved flags with one hand and held beer or soft drink cans in the other, with the masses cheering on every Spanish chance in the game.
But as the minutes ticked by, tension mounted as Portugal pressured, prompting anger among the crowd.
Some, like Lorena Santa Cruz, were disappointed at La Roja’s performance.
“I’m really sorry but Portugal are quicker and they’re reacting better,” said the 32-year-old interior decorator. But others still kept the faith, albeit through gritted teeth and with furrowed brows, as the match progressed.
“Portugal are better but now they’re going to tire. Spain will have more chances,” shouted Salvador Gonzalez, a 31-year-old consultant.
In the end the two cancelled each other out and it was Fabregas’ winning spotkick which finally sparked whoops of joy in the capital and across Spain.
That contrasted with disbelief in Lisbon, where Portuguese fans had flocked to squares and cafes to cheer on their side. After Fabregas’ winner gloom descended on the massed throng.
“We believed to the end,” said a young woman aged around 20, still defiantly brandishing a green and red scarf in the colors of the Seleccao.
“There’s no point discussing the penalties, it’s just a lottery,” shouted a friend as he slammed an “unjust” result.
“They played so well throughout, they deserved to go to the final,” said another fan, who gave his name as Luis.
“I think they’re just unlucky,” concluded a young girl who had painted her face in the national colors.