Fabregas: I knew I’d be the one to seal Spain’s place in the final

PORTUGAL 0
SPAIN 0
Spain win 4-2 on penalties

SPAIN’S match-winning midfielder Cesc Fabregas insisted he knew beforehand that he would be the one to send his side into the final of the European Championship after scoring the decisive penalty to do just that.

A penalty shootout was required to separate the two sides after 120 minutes had failed to produce a solitary goal and it was the Barcelona ball-player that out-shone Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo in presenting his side with the chance to become the first-ever to win three consecutive major international tournaments.

The reality is that reaching the final four in some ways represents an overachievement on Portugal’s part, even if Ronaldo’s fabulous form had previously suggested they could have finished as winners, while Spain will await the victor of tonight’s fixture between Germany and Italy in the final.

“I had intuition and wanted the fifth penalty,” said Fabregas, who also scored Spain’s winning spot-kick against Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008. “I told Toni Grande [Spain’s assistant] I thought I could repeat that great moment.

“They told me initially to take the second one but I said no give me the fifth as I had this premonition. I played awfully but the team has had the desire. I’m very excited.”

While Fabregas was again Spain’s hero, Ronaldo, perhaps unfairly, could be considered Portugal’s villain. Though undoubtedly the irresistible influence in inspiring his side this far, the dead-ball specialist had, against conventional wisdom, yet to take a penalty before Fabregas sealed La Roja’s win and may forever regret doing so.

Both teams’ approaches to the opening 90 minutes failed to even provide the threat of a goal before Spain’s superior quality provided genuine urgency in extra time.

Xabi Alonso’s penalty was saved by Portugal’s Rui Patricio, as was Joao Moutinho’s by Iker Casillas. Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos then scored for Spain, as did Pepe and Nani for Portugal, before Bruno Alves’s miss and Fabregas’s winner.