KEIR RADNEDGE in DONETSK: Spain hero Sergio Ramos explained, after the victory over Portugal, that it was only at the very last moment he decided to try his luck with a soft-centred ‘Panenka’ penalty in the shootout.
The score was 2-2 – with Xabi Alonso and Joao Moutinho having missed one apiece for Spain and Portugal – when Ramos stepped up.
All Spain held its breath, remembering that the last time he took a kick – for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals – the ball thundered high and wide and out of sight.
This time however, after the same lengthy run-up, the man of the match popped the ball through the centre of goal with keeper Rui Patricio sprawling helplessly across towards a post.
The style of penalty was famously perfected by Antonin Panenka, with the penalty which brought Czechoslovakia victory over West Germany in the 1976 final; Italy’s Andrea Pirlo repeated the feat in the Azzurri’s victory over England in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals last Sunday.
This latest version, by Ramos, put Spain 3-2 up. Bruno Alves hit the bar with Portugal’s next kick and then Cesc Fabregas stepped forward to strike Spain’s winner.
Ramos, grinning broadly at the memory of his accomplishment, said: “Firstly, I’m proud of the whole team. It was a very difficult match all the way to the end. Maybe we were lucky but we have the best goalkeeper in the world in Iker Casillas and when it came to my penalty this sort of confidence is what makes the difference.
“I had this plan. Until the last moment I wasn’t sure how the goalkeeper would move and after my last experience with a penalty, in the Champions League, maybe people thought I was not ready for this responsibility. But I’m feeling very proud now because I felt confident enough to try again.
“I had thought about it in advance. It was a risk but I watched how the goalkeeper always moved and I was pretty sure he would go one way or the other . . . and I was lucky of course. But it was a great experience for me.
“I want to thank out coach for trusting me . . . because he has spent many years working with me and he knows I am a little crazy.”
Certainly, it was a moment to treasure, far beyond this match on this day.
As Ramos added: “For myself, my family and my future children will have something to remember with this. But the world will remember that Spain won and wrote history and now I hope we win the final because we have worked very hard and unless you win people don’t appreciate the efforts you make.”
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