Spain squeaks past Italy to reach semis of European Championship

By Stuart Condie

VIENNA, Austria – Cesc Fabregas scored the decisive penalty kick in a shootout Sunday night, sending Spain past Italy 4-2 after a 0-0 draw, setting up a semifinal against Russia in the European Championship.

The World Cup champion Italians were stymied twice by goalkeeper Iker Casillas in the shootout.

Spain, the only group winner to make the semifinals, plays Russia in Vienna on Thursday night. The other semifinal has Turkey against Germany on Wednesday in Basel, Switzerland.

David Villa, Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna beat Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon in the shootout. Fabio Grosso and Mauro Camoranesi connected for Italy, but Casillas stopped Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Nitale. Casillas guessed right on all four Italy penalty kicks, barely missing the two that found the net.

It was the first victory for Spain over Italy in a major competition in 88 years.

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    The last quarterfinal of the tournament often was sleep-inducing, played at a crawl, with neither side willing to open up the game. Instead, there were dozens of fouls, misplayed crosses and enough falling over to resemble an Olympic diving competition. Fans jeered both teams at halftime, and there were 51 fouls in the match.

    Spain created more openings, but neither team performed at anything like its peak.

    David Silva shot inches wide early in extra time.One close call for Italy came when substitute Camoranesi had a goal-bound shot blocked by the legs of Casillas in the 61st minute. Otherwise, with key midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso suspended, the world champions seemed content to stifle a Spain team that had shown some of the best attacking soccer in the group stages.