Cool Fabregas makes the difference again

For a perpetual substitute Cesc Fabregas has a habit of making match-winning contributions when it counts most for Spain.

His winning penalty against Portugal in the Euro 2012 semi-final shootout on Wednesday added to a collection that includes setting up the winner in the 2010 World Cup final.

Italy, possible opponents in Sunday's final, will also remember his winning spot-kick after coming off the bench in their quarter-final at the last European Championship.

"I had a funny feeling about the penalties and I was thinking about them this afternoon. That life has given me another chance like this is really incredible," Fabregas said after Spain's 4-2 shootout victory.

"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. They told me initially to take the second one but I said no give me the fifth as I had this premonition."

Fabregas' faith proved better placed than Portugal's in keeping Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo in reserve for the final spot-kick.

The world's most expensive player and Euro 2012 joint top scorer ahead of Wednesday's semi-final had to stand and watch helplessly as the Barcelona man put an end to the contest.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento knocked back criticism of his captain not being employed earlier in the shootout.

"Well we had this plan and if it would have been 4-4 and he would have taken the last penalty we would talk in a different way," he told a news conference.

Spain's other hero was Sergio Ramos who followed the example set by Italy's Andre Pirlo against England in nervelessly dinking the ball gently over the goalkeeper.

It was all the braver for his having missed one of the penalties in Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final elimination by Bayern Munich just over a month ago.

"I had absolutely no doubts. I wanted to take one because I have always been ready to and I wanted to prove it."


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