By FourFourTwo's guest columnist, Tim Stannard of La Liga Loca
If Cesc Fabregas wasnÃ¢ÂÂt the Spaniard with the biggest pair of cojones youÃ¢ÂÂve ever seen on Sunday night, then it was the nut job your correspondent witnessed weaving his way through the Madrid traffic on a bicycle, minutes after SpainÃ¢ÂÂs wondrous win over the dastardly Italians. The soon to be splattered cyclist was attempting to pick his way through foot-to-the-floor Fiat drivers who had one hand hammering away on horns, the other waving out the window whilst steering with their knees.The MadridileÃÂ±os werenÃ¢ÂÂt going to let the small matter of driving through shop windows stop them celebrating a famous victory which banished more ghosts than Bill MurrayÃ¢ÂÂs men ever managed.
Spain fans rejoice en route to splattering cyclist
With their penalty shootout success, superstitious Spain had beaten Italy in a proper competition for the first time in 88 years, made it past the quarter finals, won a match on the June 22 but, most importantly of all, put one over a side loathed more than vegetarianism and speed cameras put together. Sunday nightÃ¢ÂÂs honk fest was an orgasmic explosion of footballing love juice from a pessimistic population that felt sure that it would be the Italians who would be out celebrating victory on their Vespas on Sunday night. Despite the desperate attempts of Marca and AS to soothe the worries of their readers through pointless polls and xenophobic taunts towards Sunday nightÃ¢ÂÂs opponents, brows were furiously furrowed when the grudge match kicked off. And that footballing fear did not go away for the whole 120 minutes of a game which was typical of SpainÃ¢ÂÂs recent encounters - pretty passing, scores of chances but jack to show for their efforts come the end of the game. But thanks to Iker CasillasÃ¢ÂÂ rarely displayed penalty prowess - and two exceptional saves during the game - it was the Spanish who went through to rally against the Ruskies on Thursday night. MondayÃ¢ÂÂs El Pais spoke a little harshly of Ã¢ÂÂplayers paralysed by this historical weightÃ¢ÂÂ to explain away what they felt was a flaccid performance, especially by Fernando Torres who had Ã¢ÂÂone of his worst matches with La Roja and did not have a single chance between the posts.Ã¢ÂÂ
El NiÃÂ±o: Slated by El Pais
Bernd Schuster writing in Marca was impressed by the concentration and patience shown by the Spanish team, although warned that the Russian encounter will be Ã¢ÂÂa game just as difficult as ItalyÃ¢ÂÂ with their fresh-footed opponents just two months into their Siberian season. It was another poor performance from Sergio Ramos who allowed far too many crosses to be swung in for Luca Toni to miss. But Cuatro pundit Alfredo RelaÃÂ±o was not going to mark the full-back down.Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt want to talk about individual players,Ã¢ÂÂ said ASÃ¢ÂÂ editor during the match proving himself to be both a waste of oxygen and match ticket. But his reticence to criticise a Real Madrid footballer was just typical of the appalling coverage of the game by the channelÃ¢ÂÂs commentators who dismissed every Italian tackle as a foul and their opponentÃ¢ÂÂs tumbles as dives.Their piÃÂ¨ce de rÃÂ©sistance was to cut away to four minutes of advertisements, just seconds after the celebrations of the ecstatic Spanish squad had started. For the most sober and studied reflections on Sunday nightÃ¢ÂÂs game and the impact of Iker Casillas itÃ¢ÂÂs necessary, as always, to turn to ASÃ¢ÂÂs TomÃÂ¡s Roncero in his Ã¢ÂÂfrom the televisionÃ¢ÂÂ column - which could well be renamed Ã¢ÂÂfrom my padded cell.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂThank you to an angel who came into this world on the May 20 1981 to change the course of history,Ã¢ÂÂ ranted Roncero. Ã¢ÂÂHe stopped their penalties like Superman stopping a Boeing 747 taking off from New York airport.Ã¢ÂÂ
Iker 'Superman' Casillas leaps to his right to deny De Rossi
The opinion formers in the Spanish press and the average JosÃÂ© on the street know that they will be facing a very different Russia side to the one beaten 4-1 just over two weeks ago in the group stages. As a King Juan Carlos hugging, Luis AragonÃÂ©s confessed after the match, Ã¢ÂÂitÃ¢ÂÂs going to be really hard for us.Ã¢ÂÂ But that is a contest against the Commies far from the minds of the Spanish with MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs editorial gushing that Ã¢ÂÂwe are one of the four final teams in a tournament where Portugal, Holland, France and Italy have gone home.Ã¢ÂÂ And for the moment, thatÃ¢ÂÂll do just fine.