Spain Breaks Mold to Win on Penalties

APItaly's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon diving the wrong way as Spain's Cesc Fabregas scores the winning penalty in Sunday's Euro '08 quarterfinal in Vienna.
VIENNA -- Spain beat Italy 4-2 on penalties after a goalless quarterfinal Sunday to end its shootout hoodoo and reach the last four of a major tournament for the first time in 24 years.

It will now face Russia, which it thrashed 4-1 in its opening group game, thanks to substitute midfielder Cesc Fabregas who scored the decisive spot kick after Iker Casillas had saved two of Italy's penalties.

It is the first time Spain has reached the last four since it got to the European Championship final in 1984, and came after it had lost three previous quarterfinal shootouts in major tournaments, all on June 22. The victory was also its first over Italy at a major tournament outside the Olympic Games.

"It was about time we won one, we deserve it," said Casillas, who saved from Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale. "Losing on penalties again would have been terrible."

The game ended goalless after extra time as both defenses coped relatively comfortably with overly-cautious attempts to break them down.

"It was a very evenly balanced game," said Spain coach Luis Aragones.

Two years ago Italy won the World Cup on penalties, and coach Roberto Donadoni had no complaints Sunday.

"The players should leave here with their heads held high," he said after Italy's fifth shootout defeat.

Spain is the only one of the Euro 2008 group winners to reach the semifinals after Portugal, Croatia and Netherlands all lost.

But like the three who fell before it, Spain was unable to reproduce its earlier form as it was frustrated by an Italy side that had rediscovered its defensive solidity after a shaky start to the tournament.

Neither keeper was stretched in the first half, and though Spain continued to have the better of the game after the break, its play lacked accuracy and a real commitment to attack.

Fabregas and Santi Cazorla came on after an hour and livened things up a little, but it was Italy substitute Mauro Camoranesi who almost opened the scoring moments later. His close-range shot was saved by the feet of Casillas.

Midfielder Marcos Senna then almost snatched it for Spain nine minutes from time when Gianluigi Buffon fumbled a long-range Marcos Senna drive on to a post, but he safely gathered the rebound.

Spain remained the more ambitious side in extra time but few in the crowd were surprised when it went to penalties.

Buffon saved from Daniel Guiza but David Villa, Santi Cazorla and Senna all beat him and after Casillas played his part with two diving stops, Fabregas settled it.