Spain will be competing in their fifth EURO semi-final on Tuesday and Italy will have the unenviable task of ending their unblemished record in the last four. We take a look back at this profitable stage of the competition for La Roja.
The Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid was the setting for Spain’s first ever EURO finals match. Spearheaded by the outstanding Luis Suárez, José Villalonga’s charges seemed set for a place in the finals when Jesús María Pereda planted a first-half header in the top corner, but Ferenc Bene’s predatory finish took the tie into extra time. With time running out in the additional period, Amancio Amaro pounced to prod in the winner after José Maria Fusté had headed down a Carlos Lapetra corner – Spain would leave it late to seal victory in the final against the Soviet Union too.
The drama in Spain’s next last-four outing took place in a penalty shoot-out in Lyon. Such a finish looked highly unlikely when Søren Lerby gave Denmark an early lead and Frank Arnesen struck the post in an impressive first-half showing from Sepp Piontek’s side. However, La Roja were a different proposition thereafter, with Antonio Maceda levelling in the 90 minutes and Lobo Carrasco going close twice in extra time, where Denmark were reduced to ten men. Preben Elkjær was probably the last player expected to fail in the shoot-out but his miss ensured Miguel Muñoz’s men reached the showpiece – France would take the glory there though.
Was this the game that ushered in Spain’s era of international dominance? An equally free-flowing Russia side offered a major test of the credentials of Luis Aragonés’ charges but their response was emphatic. Xavi Hernández broke the deadlock, and Russia’s spirit, five minutes after half-time by steering Andrés Iniesta’s fine left-wing cross past Igor Akinfeev, and La Roja eased to victory with further goals from Daniel Güiza and David Silva. They would scratch their 44-year itch in the final against Germany thanks to Fernando Torres’ winner – a first FIFA World Cup would follow two years later.
The European and world champions were the team to beat in 2012 and no side came closer to toppling them than their Iberian rivals. Vicente del Bosque’s well-oiled machine spluttered for much of the contest, though penalties would have been avoided had Rui Patrício not denied Andrés Iniesta from point-blank range in extra time. La Roja kept their nerve, however, converting four spot kicks in a row after Xabi Alonso’s initial miss to progress. No team had ever won three consecutive major tournaments but Spain would create history in sensational fashion by beating Italy 4-0 in the final.