Euro 2008 Semi-Finals: Spain 3-0 Russia - Hiddink Unable to Hurdle Semi-Finals Jinx
Spain defeated upset-seeking Russia to book a ticket to the finals of Euro 2008 today.
The Spaniards comfortably put Guus Hiddink and company away 3-0 in Vienna, where heavy rain and frequent bolts of lightning threatened to abandon the match at Ernst Happel Stadion.
Hiddink, former manager of the Dutch, South Korean, and Australian national teams, could not find the break-through to advance to his first title match as an international manager.
Spain seek their first international trophy since 1984 and clinch only their third finals berth since 1964, when they won the first ever European championship. They await Germany, who also ended Turkey’s fantasy dream-run yesterday in Basel.
The Spanish now extend a twenty one-match winning streak in international competition, their last loss coming in October 2006 during the qualifying stage of the tournament. Among those victories was a 4-1 thrashing of the same Russian side earlier in the tournament.
Spain began the match brightly, involving their front duo Villa and Torres early. Sergio Ramos also showed energetic spurts of creativity and pressure, and the majority of the first half saw Spanish-dominated play.
Igor Akinfeev looked solid behind the Russian defense, however, saving difficult shots from a spinning Fernando Torres ten yards from goal, as well a long-range effort from David Villa in which the striker injured himself and left the game. For all their possession and buildup, Spain could not produce quality opportunities, and the Russian back four usually were able to snuff out most of the threats that came their way.
The pressure paid off in the 50th minute, though, when Xavi Hernandez put away a "mistake" through-ball from Andres Iniesta to break the scoreless deadlock. Iniesta had dribbled into penalty box and shot for the far post, but Xavi Hernandez intercepted his Barcelona teammate’s effort and re-directed the ball past a helpless Akinfeev.
From then on, the Spanish did not look back. In the 63rd minute, Sergio Ramos tore down the right side and crossed into the box for Fernando Torres, who just missed poking the ball into the back of the net to put his side up 2-0. Yuri Zhirkov stepped in with a timely slide-tackle just five minutes later to deny an otherwise free Torres inside the box, and the Russians looked unable to get out of their own half.
Then, in the 73rd minute, substitute Daniel Guiza sealed the victory for his side when he tucked away a clever chip-pass from Cesc Fabregas six yards out. Fabregas later took advantage of an exposed Russian defense in the 82nd minute when he ran down the left wing to square for an oncoming David Silva, who tapped in the ball past Akinfeev for the third time, and Spain looked like high-flying.
Iker Casillas was first called into credible action in the match in the 89th minute, saving a header from Roman Pavlyuchenko at point blank range following a Russian free-kick. The Russian defense looked thoroughly beleaguered throughout the second half, caught up defending with an ever-more confident Spanish attack.
Guus Hiddink’s side, which had come into the match with a more cautious and tentative look than their previous matches, looked nothing like the bubbling team that defeated Holland and Sweden last week. Russia were never allowed to establish a rhythm or involve their key players, Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko, and the quality of their passing kept them from troubling the Spanish defense throughout the match.
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