A stunning second-half performance that netted three goals saw Spain power past Russia in a Euro 2008 semi-final clash in Vienna to reach their first major final in 24 years.
After a slow first half, Spain came back with three goals
Second-half goals from Xavi Hernandez, Daniel Guiza and David Silva sealed a 3-0 victory on Thursday, June 26, for Luis Aragones' side, which will play Germany in Sunday's final.
"We came here to win the tournament," Cesc Fabregas, one of the stars of the night, said. "In a final anything can happen, but right now we have to enjoy the moment."
Fabregas was rushed into action after 34 minutes after a muscle injury to David Villa, who is now a major doubt for the final, and the Arsenal man said he would play any part he is asked to against Germany.
"It's up to the boss but I will be here as soon as he needs me," said Fabregas.
Russia couldn't keep up
Russia just got tired too soon, said their coach
Russia had stunned Holland in the previous round, with Andrei Arshavin at the center of all their best moves, but he and the entire Russian side were well short of their best in the Ernst Happel stadium this time around.
"Arshavin plays very freely so we decided that in every area one player was meant to keep an eye on him. If [Marcos] Senna left him then another player took up the job," said Aragones of how Spain snuffed out the threat from the Zenit St. Petersburg star.
"We lost against a very good opponent. Spain is a very good team," admitted Russia coach Guus Hiddink. "We were able to keep to their level for nearly an hour. That was their plan to make us tired and we could not keep with them in the second half.
"But we can be proud to have gotten to this stage."
Spain cashes in during second half
In steady rain, Spain, who had squeezed past Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals, dominated possession in a frenetic opening and Villa and Fernando Torres caused the Russia defense all sorts of problems.
The only surprise was that it took as long as 50 minutes for Spain to go ahead, and Xavi side-footed them in front after a cross-shot from Andres Iniesta.
Guiza and Xabi Alonso replaced Xavi and Torres and Spain went further ahead 17 minutes from time, a lovely lofted pass from Fabregas setting up Guiza, who finished neatly.
Fabregas was the provider once again, eight minutes from the end, slotting the ball perfectly into the path of Silva, who found the corner with a fine left-foot finish.
Arshavin almost pulled one back late on but Iker Casillas saved well and Spain ran out convincing winners.
Spain reluctant favorites against Germany
Spain may be favored, but they have less experience in the finals than Germany
"We started the game playing the kind of football Russia likes with longer balls but when we started moving the ball around that is when we started doing well, both defensively and offensively," said Aragones.
"We passed the ball very well. When we came to the tournament we realized that we had a good team and could get very far. We have learned how to compete."
Arogones refused to accept his side would now start as favorites against Germany, despite Joachim Loew's side having had an inconsistent tournament to date.
"I don't know if there is a favorite. Maybe Germany can be considered favorites because they are more used to getting to finals than we are," said Aragones of the three-time winners.
"But it's very difficult to stop us when we move the ball very quickly. The Russians got tired. The Germans might be better physically but in the end our pace could tire them," he added.