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Spain a win away at Euro 2012 from cementing place in history as perhaps greatest team ever

Spanish players celebrate after Cesc Fabregas, center, scored the decisive goal in the penalty shootout of the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, June 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
June 28, 2012 - 9:44 AM

DONETSK, Ukraine - Spain is just one victory away from making history and securing its reputation as perhaps the greatest national side ever.

Spain laboured to a penalty shootout win over Portugal to reach Sunday's final, where only Germany or Italy can keep it from winning a third straight major tournament — an unprecedented feat between World Cup and continental competition.

The record run is on course even if Spain's attack hasn't exactly lived up to high expectations, with the team's ability to grind out results becoming its trademark in Poland and Ukraine.

Spain is the only side apart from West Germany to have reached three straight finals, and the team can go one better than that West German side from the 1970s with a victory in Kyiv.

"Spain has already made history and now we continue making it," captain Iker Casillas said. "I hope people remember this all their lives because who would have thought we could achieve this four years ago."

The Spanish, who started their current run by winning Euro 2008, remain on course after Cesc Fabregas netted the decisive penalty after Wednesday's game ended 0-0 after extra-time.

"I had an intuition. In the afternoon I was thinking about it, that I would have a unique opportunity and I told (assistant coach) Toni Grande that I didn't want to shoot second, that I wanted to shoot fifth," Fabregas said at the Donbass Arena. "I think I spoke to the ball, I know what I told the ball. I said 'I think we'll be together right to the final.'"

Vicente del Bosque's team has an extra rest day over its opponent, something that will surely be appreciated as the Spanish coach admitted that he replaced Xavi Hernandez against Portugal because of fatigue.

And there are no preferences for the world champions come the final.

"In either case, whichever team gets out of the semifinal will be a great team," Del Bosque said.

Spain's biggest concern going into the final will be its starting attack after surprise choice Alvaro Negredo failed to gel with his teammates against Portugal. Fabregas or Fernando Torres are the favourites, with the pair having scored two goals each and having both started twice in five games.

Despite its inability to find the back of the net, Spain remains upbeat about its chances.

"Spain keeps making history, nobody has done what we have and now if we win Sunday's final we can add the exclamation point to this era," said defender Sergio Ramos, whose audacious soft chip in the penalty shootout helped put Spain in command. "I hope people appreciate how difficult it is to get to where we are. Spain won't always win every game but we hope that's not the case on Sunday."

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Paul Logothetis can be reached at: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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