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Spain : The road to glory - Part two
So there they were, quarter finals, Spain wanted to dream, but if we looked at the past Mexico '86, England '96, Korea '02 and ... history wasn't on our side. To put matters worse, we were playing the Azzurri – back then World Champions.
When the match started, it was a back and forth between the two, when it wasn't Luca Toni trying to get one over on Casillas, it was Silva and co. against Buffon, but as ever, he was exceptional. The 90 minutes were nearly up, a last shot from Senna, who whacked the ball, only to be caught by Buffon.
Extra time was even more nail biting, the Italians kept getting dangerously close to scoring. The last clear chances were from Villa, and in the 120' Cazorla they both didn't go in... Destiny wanted Spain and Italy to decide with penalties.
Casillas was talking to one of the sub-coaches, because he had been studying how Italians take penalties. The goalkeeper didn’t want to know, he was going to go with his gut. Aragonés decided on the shooters and the order Villa, Santi Cazorla, Dani Güiza, Senna and Fabregas. The first three scored, Güiza’s was stopped by Buffon, the Spanish striker was in tears, and everyone consoled him, even Casillas who said to him “Don’t worry, I will stop this one” The Real Madrid star said he couldn’t believe he had said that, but he didn’t disappoint, he stopped two penalties.
The curse of the quarter-finals had been broken, and they broke it by beating non other than the reigning World Champions.
You could sense the good atmosphere between the players on the pitch. Behind closed doors it was the same. Reminiscing about the nights in the hotel, players like Puyol, Senna,Santi Cazorla or Casillas, recall meeting in Joan Capdevila’s room and just hanging. The physiotherapists of the team were amazed “We have been here for 20 years, and never had we seen the players spend that amount of time together, there could be up to 14 players in a single room”
Spain were through to the Semi-finals, and Russia were waiting for them at the semi-finals, but it wasn’t the same Russia that they had had beaten just over two weeks ago. Coach Luis Aragonés didn’t let them believe they could win, they had to work hard for it, but the hopes of the millions of fans were up sky high. Even tennis Ace Rafa Nadal had asked if he could play at 14:00 at Wimbledon so he could watch Spain play.
Spanish newspaper Marca wrote "Confirmed: Football is an 11 on 11 sport in which Germany always wins.... until Sunday" There was no more keeping calm, Spain actually had a chance to win this. Thanks to goals from Xavi, Dani Güiza and Silva, we were through to the final. That victory didn’t come without a big price, David Villa, top goalscorer of the tournament so far, had picked up an injury, and would not be fit to play the final. Just before the game started,while in the tunnel Luis Aragonés had some final words of wisdom, now you're not just playing the Euros, you're going to win it.
On the 29th of June 2008 Spain won the Euros, 44 years after the last one. Cesc had said "My heart says we are going to win" and his heart was right.
Everyone remembers it, minute 33 of the first half, a great pass from Xavi to El Niño Torres, who passes Lahm and beats German goalie Lehmann to score the only goal of the final
Just after that Silva hit a volley from Iniesta the wrong way and it didn't go in. The Germans were more than happy when the half time whistle was blown.
The second half was torture for La Roja as Germany didn't go down without a fight. Silva could've seen a red card for a head collision with Lukas Podolski. Aragonés was quick to act, just after he had put Xabi Alonso in for Fabregas (63’), to stop the German's attack, decided to get replace Silva with Cazorla in the 66'.
The remaining half an hour, seemed never ending, every time the German's got close to our side it was maximum tension. The final whistle was blown and it was all over.
Spain had displayed great football, shown potential, and all that hard work paid off, La Roja were European Champions, finally a story to tell our children, grandchildren.
Chelsea striker Torres said “You dream of this, when you’re sat in the sofa watching other teams win trophies, and you dream one day it could be you”
Iker Casillas was quoted as saying “Luis Aragonés was like our granddad, in a good way, he was the only one that believed in us when nobody else would, the best thing is to know you’ve just made a whole country happy”.
The dream was official when Iker Casillas, the man who saved us in penalties, the man who made us dream, lifted up the trophy, after years of football being dominated by Germans, Italians and French, now it was Spain's turn to shine.
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