Euro 2012 Daily Wrap: Spain Advance to Final, Nasri Regrets Rant
Cesc Fabregas had a feeling. When the feeling became reality, Spain were on their way to the Euro 2012 final.
Fabregas, a 25-year-old midfielder, converted the decisive spot kick as Spain defeated Portugal in a penalty shootout Wednesday in Donetsk, Ukraine.
The shootout followed 120 scoreless minutes, and the result moved Spain one win away from history.
There was news off the pitch too, as French midfielder Samir Nasri did something nobody expected.
Read on for all the details of a busy day at Euro 2012.
Full Speed Ahead
Portugal took an aggressive approach to playing Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo and company attacked from the start, pressured Spanish players on the ball and pushed forward whenever possible, especially on counters.
It was a refreshing sight, and it made for an intriguing first half in which Spain was largely second-best.
Spain's midfielders uncharacteristically struggled to hold onto possession, often giving the ball away easily, and with surprise starter Alvaro Negredo playing as the center forward in a 4-5-1, Spain seemed to lack focus moving forward.
Unfortunately for Portugal, the aggressive approach failed to result in any goals. Through 120 minutes, Portugal recorded 10 shots, but only two on target.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a chance to win the match for Portugal in regular time.
Portugal countered quickly after a Spain free kick in the 90th minute. Ronaldo received the ball on the left side, and with plenty of time and space, sliced his shot well high and wide of the near post.
It was Portugal's last really good chance to score.
Spain dominated extra time and came close to scoring through Andres Iniesta in the 103rd minute, but goalkeeper Rui Patricio produced a superb save from close range.
Let's Talk About Cesc, Baby
After 120 scoreless minutes, Spain and Portugal went to a penalty shootout.
Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas scored the decisive spot-kick, hitting his shot in off the upright to Rui Patricio's right. A couple inches the other way, and the ball might have bounced out.
Cristiano Ronaldo was set to take Portugal's fifth penalty, but the shootout did not last that long. Spain won, 4-2.
Afterwards, Fabregas said he had a "feeling" he would convert the decisive kick.
Here's what he said, per UEFA.com:
I thought about it going to penalties all evening and Toni Grande [Spain's assistant coach] told me I'd take the second one, but I told him I wanted to take the fifth. I had this feeling and then I got the opportunity and it's fantastic.
Spain advanced to Sunday's final in Kiev and will play for their third straight major title. La Roja previously won Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010.
No international team has ever won three straight major titles.
Germany and Italy will contest the second semifinal Thursday in Warsaw. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Eastern at Stadion Norodowy.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli (pictured) has declared the Azzurri won't use defensive tactics against Germany's vaunted offense (per BBC Sport).
Germany last won a major title 16 years ago (Euro 96), and Die Mannschaft have gone seven matches without beating Italy.
Off the Field
French midfielder Samir Nasri "regrets" the foul-mouthed rant he directed at a journalist following France's defeat to Spain in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals (per The Guardian).
Before you assume that Nasri is simple doing the right thing, consider this: The 25-year-old midfielder is facing a two-year international ban over the incident.