June 23, 2008

“MADRID, June 23 (Reuters) – Goalkeeper Iker Casillas was lauded by the Spanish media on Monday after two saves in the penalty shootout against Italy put Spain into the semi-finals of Euro 2008. ‘Hero Casillas,’ said the front page of daily Sport. El Mundo led with: ‘Casillas breaks the Spanish jinx.’ It is 24 years since Spain have reached the final four of a major tournament and the ‘curse of the quarter-finals’ hung over Spanish fans watching the match at home, in bars, and on giant screens set up in squares across the country on Sunday. The evening appeared to be going to script. Spain dominated possession without really causing Italy too many problems, while the nervous tension mounted after a goalless 90 minutes and then extra-time. A fatalism took over as the shootout started, with a belief that the world champions were the side more likely to come out on top. Fans darkly reminded each other of Spain’s three previous quarter-final exits on penalties, all on June 22. But Casillas, who has been dubbed ‘San Iker’ by Real Madrid fans in the past, saved from Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale. Cesc Fabregas held his nerve to put away the decisive spot kick for a 4-2 shootout victory, and set off joyous celebrations across Spain. People danced in fountains and cars streaked through the centre of a balmy Madrid evening with flags waving and horns blaring. ‘Possibly this Spanish triumph will help get rid of those historical burdens that have sown a lack of confidence in everyone,’ sports daily Marca said. ‘All the complexes will be buried and we will be able to look forward and believe in the strengths of these players,’ Sports daily AS wrote: ‘Now we think everything is possible.’ Spain meet surprise-package Russia again in Thursday’s semi-final, having already thumped them 4-1 in their opening game of the tournament. Marca sought to keep Spanish feet on the ground, with a sub-heading on their front page which read: ‘Exceptional but be careful because we still haven’t won anything yet.’



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