CESCue 9-1-1

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Final Frenzy from Fabregas and Casillas (FOTO: JOSE ANTONIO GARCIA SIRVENT- Mundo Deportivo)

Francesc Fabregas broke the hearts of his Iberian neighbors when his penalty banked in off the left side post.

Similar to the Euro quarterfinals from four years ago against Italy, he had the pleasure of being the only Spaniard in the box as the game’s final ball was kicked.

The ensuing rejoice was all too familiar for the Spanish as they quickly ran towards the corner to celebrate with the man of the moment and Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Casillas.

Since the Catalan had come on as a substitute early in the second half, he was most likely fresher than his other teammates.

In world-class style, he happily took on more pressure and personally asked for the fifth and final penalty, according to Spanish national team coach Vicente del Bosque.

Game overview

After one hundred and twenty minutes of scoreless soccer, only nine total penalties were needed to secure victory for Spain as Cristiano Ronaldo, who would have taken the tenth, was left wondering what could have been.

Fabregas' penalty just beyong Patrício's fingertips (PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE - AFP)

In regulation, some would suggest that the Portuguese were the better team, while applying very physical pressure in the Spanish defensive half. Ronaldo and Hugo Almeida let a couple of shots fly, but the team as a whole never really challenged Casillas’ net.

While Spain statistically controlled more possession, they too struggled to string together any menacing opportunities, so much so that they failed to have a shot on goal until almost the eightieth minute.

As the early risky Portuguese tactics did not yield any fruits and the energy spent began to take its toll, Portugal was forced to take a more conservative approach and began to obviously take its foot off the gas, placing their hopes in the eminent penalty shootout.

Spain, smelling the chance, began to turn its well-oiled machine on maximum output and left no doubt that it was out to win it.

Jordi Alba ran up and down the left hand wing and was the most dangerous option throughout extra time. As he worked together with his future Barça teammates, Pedro Rodríguez and Andrés Iniesta, they made the clearest opportunity of the game, only to have Portuguese goalkeeper, Rui Patrício, desperately parry the last gasp effort.

Unfortunately, a goal was not in the cards and the succeeding drama awaited the two Iberian nations.

Penalty Recap

Xabi Alonso was up first and as he was strolling towards the spot, Ronaldo quickly ran over to Patrício to give him a hint about Alonso’s preferences. The last second advice proved vital as the Portuguese keeper made the save to his bottom left. From that point forward, Spain did not miss.

Next up, it was Portugal’s Joao Moutinho who buckled under the pressure. Casillas predicted Moutinho’s placement in the keeper’s bottom right hand corner.

Hug it out boys! (PHOTO: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE - AFP)

The following 4 shooters (two from each team), Iniesta, Pepe, Gerard Piqué, and Nani, handled the pressure like true professionals out to do their jobs.

The turning point came when Sergio Ramos, who had scuppered a penalty just two months ago in the Champions League semifinals against Bayern Munich, stepped up to meet his demons. Just as Andrea Pirlo did against England on Sunday, he went down the middle once Patrício had made his choice to go to his left.

The fourth and final Portuguese penalty went to Bruno Alves. He proceeded to hit the right post and the ball bounced out, giving Spain a one goal lead. A point of note must be said about Portugal’s third attempt when Alves confused his number in the order and nearly took his shot out of turn. Maybe the walk back to the center was too much to handle and potentially, he had been left to contemplate his options too long after forgetting his place in line.

Finally, Fabregas did his deed and Spain qualified for a third consecutive major international final.

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