A look at Euro 2008: Quarterfinal No. 4

Spain has exorcised many demons by beating the Italians in a major tournament to go through to the semifinals.

In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of today’s quarterfinal contest:

SPAIN 0, ITALY 0 2OT (Spain won the shootout 4-2): Following 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, Spain held its nerve throughout the ensuing shootout to beat its nemesis and advance to the semifinal round of Euro 2008. Spanish keeper Iker Casillas saved Antonio Di Natalie’s penalty kick in the fourth round of the shootout, and Cesc Fabregas buried his ensuing attempt to send Spain through. Casillas made two stops in the shootout. Throughout regulation, Spain held more of the possession but failed to break down Italy’s water-tight defense.

MY ANALYSIS: Well, full marks to the Spanish for holding their nerve in the shootout. Despite being frustrated time and again by Italy’s fantastic defending throughout 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, Spain came up with the goods when it had to.
Penalty kicks are always a lottery, and the team that can cope with the immense pressure of the situation usually advances, and such was the case today.
Overall, this was the kind of game a lot of people predicted and feared. It’s the sort of matchup that’s always a billion times sexier on paper than it is on the pitch.
Italy gets credit in my mind for doing what it always does: The Italians kept things tight, defended extremely well and cautiously went forward when obvious situations presented themselves.
No matter how you feel about the strategy, one can’t argue that it hasn’t yielded much success for Italy. On this occasion, though, Spain didn’t get down after failing to score in regulation and dumped the Italians out of 2008 in the shootout.
With two rounds of Euro 2008 remaining, the question that will be asked many times is, will favorites Germany and Spain meet in the final, or will the two underdogs ‘ Turkey and Russia ‘ spring a surprise?
After 16 days of non-stop action, Euro 2008 takes a break for a couple of days, but all the excitement and drama will return on Wednesday.

TODAY’S STAR MAN: Iker Casillas, Spain. Inevitably, shootouts produce heroes and villains, and on this occasion, the veteran Real Madrid keeper was the hero. Twice he made stops in the shootout to help propel Spain to the semifinals.

TODAY’S TOP GOAL: Cesc Fabregas’ penalty vs. Italy. For the first time in this tournament, there are no goals scored today. Accordingly, I’ll highlight Fabregas’ well-taken penalty, which clinched Spain’s win. With the hopes and dreams of his country riding on his shoulders, Fabregas sends Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way and buries his low shot in the net.

SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE:
Germany vs. Turkey, Wednesday, ESPN, 12:45 p.m.
Russia vs. Spain, Thursday, ESPN2, 12:45 p.m.

For those of you who caught today’s action, what did you think of the proceedings? Any disagreements with my choice for player of the day or goal of the day?

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