Spain’s dream of winning a historic back-to-back European title remains very much alive after the defending champions defeated Portugal 4-2 on penalties following a goalless draw in 120 minutes football.
Portugal followed in the footsteps of Italy to become the only team to hold the Spaniards to a draw in this tournament but unlike the Azzuri, they were unable to win a nervy penalty shoot-out when progress was on the line.
After a relatively uneventful period of regulation, neither side was able to create an absolutely clear-cut scoring opportunity in the extra time either.
While Andres Iniesta came the closes for the Spaniards, Cristiano Ronaldo also had a few opportunities that he could not convert for his nation.
With a penalty shoot-out the only separation between the two sides, Rui Patricio made an early statement for the Portuguese by saving a well-struck spot-kick from Spain’s quarterfinal match-winner Xabi Alonso.
Unfortunately for Portugal, Iker Casillas did the same by stopping Joao Moutinho’s opening penalty.
From there on, Pepe and Nani were able to match successful efforts from Iniesta and Gerard Pique before Sergio Ramos stepped up for the holders’ fourth kick.
Ramos somewhat replicated Andrea Pirlo’s smooth unnerved penalty against England by calmly curling home to apply the pressure on Portugal.
Bruno Alves, who had originally been Portugal’s third kicker before he was replaced by Nani, proceeded to the spot amid shock-waves that Ronaldo may not even have an opportunity to take his penalty.
As destiny would have it, Alves’ shot hit the inside of the cross-bar and came out, while Cesc Fabregas’ decisive fifth penalty for Spain hit the inside of the post but went safely inside the net.
Ronaldo was left to rue a sequence of events that is inevitably going to become a talking point even when all is said and done at Euro 2012.
Spain, for one, can care less as they move on to their third straight final in a major international tournament, with the winner of tomorrow’s match between Germany and Italy meeting them in Kiev on Sunday.