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Spain Beat Italy on Penalties to Book Semi-final Spot

Spain edged their way into the semi-finals of Euro 2008 with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win Sunday over world champions Italy following a tense game that finished goalless after extra time in Vienna.

Spain's national soccer team supporters react during the live broadcast of the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships quarterfinals match between Spain and Italy, which takes place in Vienna, at the Colon square of Madrid, June 22, 2008.

Public viewing led to public celebration in Madrid after the win

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas was the Spanish hero, saving penalties from Daniel De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale.

"Penalties are a bit of a lottery, though we did deserve to win," the Real Madrid keeper said. "I really believed we were going to score, right until the end."

Spain's Cesc Fabregas, left, scores the decisive goal from the penalty sport past Italy's Gianluigi Buffon, right, during the penalty shootout of the quarterfinal match between Spain and Italy in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Spain defeated Italy 4-2 on penalties, following a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Spain's Cesc Fabregas, left, scored the decisive goal

Spain's winning penalty was put away by supersub Cesc Fabregas -- to the delight of the 12,000 Spaniards including King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia in Ernst Happel Stadium.

Spain manager Luis Aragones said that it had been a "fairly even game, with both teams basically playing on the counterattack."

Praise for the 'fighters'

The veteran coach -- who is set to join Turkish giants Fenerbahce after the tournament -- added: "I believe we are deserved winners, though we do have to improve a few things."

Aragones called his team "a good group with a fine spirit, they really know how to fight."

Crushed Italian fans after Italy lost to Spain in the Euro 2008

Italian fans were crushed after the world champs crashed out

Italian coach Roberto Donadoni said he was proud of his players, who had given their all.

"I told them in the dressing room that I haven't been lucky with penalty shoot-outs. I lost as an under-21, in the semi-finals of a World Cup, in a World Cup final and in the European Championships in England," he said.

"Sometimes you lose, but I think we can hold our heads up high because of how we performed on the pitch."

Dominant Spain deserved win

Despite the effort of the Italians, Aragones' young team deserved to go through, because they dominated possession from start to finish and created the better goal chances.

Italy, in contrast, were content to play out a draw and test their luck in the shoot-out, hoping for a repeat of the 2006 World Cup final against France.

Spain's Cesc Fabregas, left, celebrates after scoring a goal with fellow team member Xavi Fernandez, right, during the group D match between Spain and Russia in Innsbruck, Austria, Tuesday, June 10, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

Spain is the only group winner to advance

Spain -- the only one of the four group winners to reach the semis -- will now face surprise package Russia on Thursday. In the other semi-final on Wednesday in Basel, Germany meet Turkey.

Spain striker David Villa revealed that King Juan Carlos is planning to again cheer them on against Russia.

"The king was really happy," said Villa, "and he wants to see us play again."

The Valencia striker -- tournament top scorer with four goals -- added: "We have really suffered tonight, but history had a debt with us after so much bad luck in the past."

End of the jinx

The shoot-out win ends Spain's June 22 penalty jinx. On June 22, 1986, Spain lost to Belgium in a dramatic World Cup quarter-final shoot-out, then against England in Euro 1996 on the same date 10 years later.

Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon looks at the ball heading into the net as Spain's Cesc Fabregas, not visible, scores the decisive goal during the penalty shootout of the quarterfinal match between Spain and Italy in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Spain won 4-2 following the shootout.

Italy's Gianluigi Buffon was the lesser keeper that night

And it was on June 22, 2002 that the Spaniards lost to hosts South Korea in the 2002 World Cup quarters.

As expected, Spain dominated possession but failed to translate their dominance into clear goal chances. Valencia strikers Villa and David Silva came close several times to breaking the tense deadlock for Spain.

Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon, in the 81st minute, fumbled a long shot from Marcos Senna onto his post.

The nearest that the ultra-cautious Italians came to scoring was in the 61st minute, when Casillas saved a Mauro Camoranesi shot with his left leg.

Italy's Antonio Di Natale reacts after missing to score from the penalty spot in the final penalty shootout of the quarterfinal match between Spain and Italy in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

Italy's Di Natale reacts after failing to score a penalty

Spain's domination continued into extra time, with Buffon saving from Villa and Santi Cazorla shooting wide. At the other end, the calm Casillas did well to turn over a Di Natale header.

Then came the nervous shootout -- and Casilla's chance to stake his claim as Europe's number one keeper over Buffon.

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