It was a game where nobody seemed able to score. Spain faced Portugal and delivered 120 goalless minutes. When the penalty shootout arrived, the opening two shooters missed. But Spain made no further mistakes, and won.
Spain have ousted their Iberian neighbors Portugal in a penalty shootout, booking the chance to defend their Euro 2008 crown in Kyiv on July 1.
Spain's Xabi Alonso missed the very first penalty of the shootout, with Rui Patricio diving low to his left and palming it clear. Iker Casillas immediately matched Patricio though, diving right to save Joao Moutinho's opening penalty.
Veteran playmaker Andres Iniesta was the first to find the target for Spain. Central defender Pepe matched him for Portugal, tying the score back up.
Another Barcelona lad, Pique, blasted low and left to score a second for Spain. Manchester United's Nani stepped up for Portugal, and bravely shot into the top corner of Casillas' goal.
Sergio Ramos of Spain trusted his right boot and did his best impression of Andrea Pirlo, impudently chipping his penalty down the middle. The next taker was another defender, Portugal's Bruno Alves blasted the ball against the crossbar, meaning Spain needed just one more to make the final.
Cesc Fabregas also hit the aluminium, but it bounced back into the net putting Spain through to their third consecutive major tournament final. The final shootout score, 4-2 to Spain. Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo either lost his bottle for a spot kick, or wanted the glory of taking number five, that final penalty never came as the Portuguese had already lost.
Fascinating game, without goalmouth action
Portugal played a disciplined and energetic opening half, relentlessly pressing the Spaniards and not allowing them to settle into their passing game. The tactical encounter may have been fascinating, but it wasn't translating into many chances at either end.
At first he didn't succeed, so he tried and tried again - sometimes from the most outrageous positions
The Portuguese, in fact, failed to put a single shot on target in the entire 120 minutes prior to penalties.
This was despite the best efforts of Ronaldo, who set the tone early when he decided to shoot from a frankly impossible angle, rather than crossing a well-placed free-kick. Ronaldo took no fewer than seven of Portugal's 11 shots, many of them from set pieces - he blasted every one either into the wall or over the bar.
His best chance, by far, came from open play in the dying seconds of regulation time. Portugal broke away in numbers after a Spanish attack petered out, and Ronaldo was all alone on the inside left channel. The pass to Ronaldo forced the Real Madrid winger to break his stride, and he was unable to regain his composure and hit the target.
More Spanish chances, but just a few more
Spain played their typically patient, and sometimes just a little impotent, brand of attacking football - especially once they were afforded more space in the second period against tiring Portuguese legs.
They gradually increased their possession quota through the game, finishing with a characteristic 64 percent of the ball - and looking by far the superior side during extra time. But Spain too were only able to find the target four times from 14 attempts.
The best Spanish chances came during extra time. Early in the first additional period, Andres Iniesta forced Rui Patricio into an excellent diving save. Later, with 111 minutes on the clock, substitute Jesus Navas - who wasted a few other opportunities - hit an excellent low shot from just a few yards out. Again Portugal's keeper was able to frustrate with quick reflexes.
While barren, the match was fiercely contested - a tournament-high nine players received yellow cards, five of them in white Portuguese shirts. Still, none of the four booked Spaniards will miss the final owing to their indiscretions, as they had not received yellows in the previous game against France.
Spain will face either Germany or Italy - who lock horns on Thursday evening - in the final on July 1. The Spaniards, who also won World Cup 2010 in South Africa, have not conceded a goal in their past nine tournament knockout matches.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Jessie Wingard