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Euro 2012 - Spain moves into the Finals with Ronaldo left waiting
Just as he did in the 2008 European Championship quarter finals, Cesc Fabregas delivered the decisive blow from the penalty spot, handing Spain a semi-final victory over Portugal and seeing them through to their second straight Euro final. The win gives the Spaniards the opportunity of becoming the first nation to win three consecutive major titles, having already claimed Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
Edmonton - June 28, 2012 - In a match pitting Cristiano Ronaldo against many of his Real Madrid teammates, this one had all sorts of hype surrounding it. Unfortunately, the two sides created very little in the way of chances over 120 minutes of play before going to penalties, to decide the first birth in the Euro 2012 final. Just as he did in the 2008 European Championship quarter finals against Italy, Cesc Fabregas delivered the decisive blow from the penalty spot, giving Spain a 4-2 win over Portugal and sending them to their second straight final. The win will gives the Spaniards the opportunity of becoming the first nation to win three consecutive major titles, having already claimed Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
Portugal played a smart and very sound defensive system, that caused the Spanish fits all day long. Spain held their usual amount of possession but the Portuguese did not simply drop back into two walls of four as most sides do and concede their half of the pitch. Their frontline of four were able to pressure Spain while remaining compact enough with their backline and forcing the Spanish wide. Something the defending champs struggled mightily with, without the presence of a true target man upfront.
Their frustration was apparent, as they uncharacteristically turned the ball over, allowing the Portuguese the opportunity to push them back on the counter attack. It was an opening half that produced next to nothing for quality chances, with the best of the bunch falling onto the boot of Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, though both missed the target with strikes from just outside the penalty area. Portugal could not have asked for a better opening forty-five minutes.
Not much changed in the second forty-five, as the chances were few and far between and the Portuguese remained discipline in their approach and kept Spain from getting a single quality chance on goal. Arguably the games best opportunity came in the ninetieth minute, as yet another Portuguese counter produced a wonderful chance for Ronaldo but the Madrid man did nothing with it, sending a shot sailing over the crossbar and this one into extra time.
While neither keeper was pressed into making any big stops during regulation, that all changed in the extra session. With time running out in the first fifteen minute half, Rui Patricio made an absolutely stunning fingertip stop off Iniesta, leaving the talented midfielder in disbelief. A lovely play by Pedro down the left side of the pitch allowed him time and space to find his Barcelona teammate, who sent a beautifully placed volley on goal from six yards out, that was somehow palmed away by the Portuguese goalkeeper.
The final fifteen would produce nothing, leaving this one to be decided from the penalty spot. After going the entire tournament without a scoreless draw, we have now had two in succession, after Italy eliminated England on penalties in the final quarter final match. With Iker Casillas in goal and their endless wealth of talent to select from, penalties tend to favour the Spanish but having removed David Silva and Xavi from the match via substitution, they had fewer weapons to choose from.
Portugal would get the early break, as Patricio made a brilliant diving stop to his left off Xabi Alonsoto. However, Casillas wasted little time responding, as he made his own diving save to his right, stoning Joao Moutinho on Portugal's first attempt. The next four shooters would all find the back of the net, leaving things level at 2-2 with Sergio Ramos set to shoot for Spain. The Madrid defender did his best Andrea Pirlo imitation, sending a cheeky little chip shot past the helpless Portuguese keeper, putting the Spanish in front 3-2.
Bruno Alves would be next for Portugal but his attempt rattled off the crossbar, leaving the match on the boot laces of one Cesc Fabregas. A perfectly placed strike off the left post and in, sent Spain to their second straight European Championship final and left Cristiano Ronaldo on the sideline thinking of what might have been. In a rather curious move, the Portuguese captain was left to shoot fifth and it was a decision that would come back to haunt them. To go out on penalties is hard enough but to do it without your best player even getting chance to take a spot kick, will make it that much harder for the Portuguese to swallow.