Portugal prove England are not the only penalty kick flops
Spain go through to final after Portugal make a hash of spot-kicks and Ronaldo takes a night off
Spain 0 Portugal 0 [Spain win 4-2 on penalties] Portugal "did an England" in Dontesk last night, losing their nerve in a penalty shoot-out to hand Spain an easy passage into the Euro 2012 final this Sunday.
Four days earlier it had been the English who cracked under pressure, missing two penalties in their quarter-final against Italy, but Portugal demonstrated that the Three Lions don't have a monopoly over spot-kick fiascos.
Like England's tie with Italy, normal time and extra-time produced little in the way of excitement in Dontesk as Spain's negative approach frustrated Portugal for whom Cristiano Ronaldo was hopelessly out of sorts. Having squandered several free-kicks with his wayward kicking, the Real Madrid star then wasted the best chance of normal time when, on 88 minutes, he blasted wide with only Iker Casillas to beat in the Spain goal.
It was that sort of night - a bitterly disappointing encounter between two sides with a safety first attitude. At times the frustration boiled over as the tackles flew in and Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir was obliged to book nine players.
Even the penalty shootout was a bit of an anti-climax as Portugal went to pieces with Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves both fluffing their lines. Cesc Fabregas scored the all-important penalty for Spain to leave Ronaldo – Portugal's fifth penalty-taker – an impotent bystander.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento admitted later their spot-kick strategy had been a shambles. "We had this plan [that] if it would have been 4-4 and he [Ronaldo] would have taken the last penalty, we would be talking in a different way," explained Bento. Having said that, given the form Ronaldo was in he would probably have shot wide.
Even the order of Portugal's penalty takers appeared uncertain with Alves and Nani disagreeing over whose turn it was at one stage. "There was some confusion with Bruno Alves and with Nani, then Bruno took the penalty, and it was decisive," conceded Bento.
Spain in contrast were slick in their spot-kick strategy once they had recovered from Xabi Alonso's early miss. Fabregas scored the winning penalty, as he had done in a similar situation in Spain's defeat of Italy in the Euro 2008 quarter-final.
"I had a funny feeling about the penalties and I was thinking about them this afternoon," the former Arsenal captain said later, who then revealed the secret of his success. "When I stepped up to take the penalty I said to the ball that we had to make history and it shouldn't let me down. I talked to the ball four years ago [against Italy] and it didn't let me down."
Spain remain on course for a historic third consecutive tournament victory having won the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup titles. All that stands between them and immortality is either Germany or Italy, who face off tonight in the second semi-final. "I don't mind who we play," replied Fabregas when asked who he fancied meeting on Sunday. "The most important thing is we are in the final. Whoever goes through it will be tough."