Donetsk (Ukraine), Jun 28: Four years after delivering the penalty credited with starting Spain's era of dominance, Cesc Fabregas has ensured the country's golden run lives on.
Fabregas scored the decisive spot kick against Portugal on Wednesday to send Spain back to the European Championship final. Spain will play either Germany or Italy in Sunday's final in Kiev, where it can become the first team to win three straight major championships.
"I had this intuition that we could advance if we went to penalties and that's what we did," Fabregas said. "I was going up to take the fifth penalty and I already felt that I would do it. There's a lot of emotions (when stepping up to take a penalty)."
At Euro 2008, it was also Fabregas who converted the winning penalty in a shootout victory over Italy in the quarterfinals, which Spain's players have said put the team on course for trophy success.
Fabregas' penalty against Italy four years ago secured Spain's passage into the semifinals, where it beat Russia before a 1-0 win over Germany in the final for its first title in 44 years. In the 2010 World Cup final, Fabregas delivered the pass for Andres Iniesta to score the extra-time winner to beat the Netherlands and win the tournament in South Africa.
Spain's players have often credited Fabregas' penalty as lifting the fog of underachievement at major tournaments, where it always arrived with talent but never lived up to expectations.
Now, Spain has a chance to become the first team to win three straight major titles.
"I played poorly, but the team worked really hard," said Fabregas, who replaced striker Alvaro Negredo in the 54th minute. "Being in another final is a miracle. It's really incredible."
Coach Vicente del Bosque said Fabregas indicated he wanted to take the decisive spot kick.
"All five of them offered to shoot the penalties," Del Bosque said. "Cesc told me 'I want to do the fifth one, to be the victorious one.'"
Left back Jordi Alba gave Fabregas some inspiration before the Barcelona forward stepped up to the penalty spot.
"When Cesc was going to take the fifth penalty, I told him, 'Look, you have another opportunity to do the same thing as in the previous Euro,'" Alba said.
Fabregas, who has scored two goals in the tournament, hoped his deciding shot delivered some joy to Spanish supporters, who numbered a few thousand in the Donbass Arena.
"I hope they will all go to party," said Fabregas, whose penalty just came off the inside the left post and stayed in.