DONETSK: There may have been nothing to choose between the two sides 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 success after a 0-0 stalemate at the end of extra time, and 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 want to take the fifth one,” said Fabregas. “I had a premonition, an intuition that things were going to come off and that life had reserved something nice for me.”
Central defender Sergio Ramos, who helped to shackle Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, was also delighted.
“It was a tough match but we have to be happy with our showing,” said the man-of-the-match. “I am so proud to be Spanish.”
Ramos, who scored an audacious ‘Panenka’ penalty in the shootout despite having missed a crucial spot-kick for his club in the semi-final loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season, said he had planned the kick.
“I’d planned it in advance, I won’t lie,” said Ramos. “After my last experience with penalties with Madrid, people said I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of taking a penalty. But I had confidence in myself and I was really up for it.”
‘No regrets over strategy’
Meanwhile, contrary to Spain, Portugal’s penalty shootout strategy backfired, with Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves failing to score, while their best player and captain Cristiano Ronaldo did not even take a spot-kick.
Ronaldo was scheduled to take his team’s fifth penalty in the shoot-out, but Spain secured victory before his turn could come. Portugal’s coach, Paulo Bento, defended the order of the penalty-takers.
“If it had been 4-4 and he had taken the last penalty, we’d be talking in a different way,” said Bento. It’s about strategy and we’d defined that before. We didn’t succeed, but I don’t regret anything.”
Portugal proud in defeat
Manchester United winger Nani, who scored Portugal’s third spot-kick, chose to look on the bright side after the defeat.
“We really gave it our all, and it’s difficult to go out on penalties,” said Nani. “We showed a lot of quality and people in Portugal can be proud of their team. We can go home with our heads held high.”
View a slideshow of the match here.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.
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