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Classy Spain too good as Russia run out of steam in Euro 2008

SoccerNews in European Championships, La Liga 26 Jun 2008

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Spain one of the pre-tournament title favourites ensured they made their first final for 24 years when they demolished Russia 3-0 here on Thursday in their Euro 2008 semi-final.

Xavi, Daniel Guiza and David Silva scored the goals as Spain brought Russia quickly back down to earth following their surprise win over Holland in the quarter-finals to give them a chance of a second European crown after the one they won in 1964 – they also made the 1984 final where they lost to hosts France.

Spain's Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas was a standout player creating two of the goals after coming on for leading scorer David Villa in the first-half, and said that the task was not over.

“We came here to win the title, and the most difficult match is to come,” said the 21-year-old.

“It was kind of strange coming on that early and also as I am not a natural striker a strange position for me to take up.

“Will I play in the final? Well he (Luis Aragones) is the boss and I will be there if he needs me.”

Guus Hiddink's team failed to spark here with the much-hyped Andrei Arshavin a huge let-down.

Spain were always the more controlled and measured and when they let their passing game flow in the second half they proved too irresistible for their inexperienced opponents.

The result matched the 4-1 Group D drubbing the Spaniards had dealt Russia in their opening game of the competition and they will now meet Germany – who beat Turkey 3-2 in Wednesday's other semi-final – in Sunday's trophy match.

Russia began with a lot of energy, although their final ball more often than not was poor.

Spain had the first chance as David Villa cleverly played in Fernando Torres in the sixth minute but goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev kicked away his snap-shot.

Villa then tried his luck from distance with a vicious shot that Akinfeev palmed to safety.

Arshavin was largely anonymous throughout although his strike partner Roman Pavlyuchenko proved an occasional menace and lashed a free-kick over the bar on 16min.

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta was holding his head in shame just before the half hour mark as he swiped at thin air after latching onto a ball over the top and on 31min Pavluychenko forced Iker Casillas to tip a curling shot around the post.

The Iberians suffered a blow on 34 minutes as striker Villa limped out with a leg injury but coach Luis Aragones curiously chose to replace him with midfielder Cesc Fabregas rather than striker Guiza.

Almost immediately Pavlyuchenko should have scored as he took down the ball on his chest only to have his heel clipped as he went to shoot, failing to make good contact and flicking the ball wide.

Spain had the last chance of the half with a piece of great skill from Torres who took down Fabregas's pass and turned onto his left foot only to scuff his shot straight at Akinfeev.

And they had the first chance after the break, taking the lead on 50 minutes as Xavi, who up until then had had a quiet game, arrived late in the box to convert Iniesta's driven cross, poking out a foot to prod the ball between Akinfeev's legs.

The game had needed a goal and that opened it up with Torres curling a shot over the bar moments later.

Hiddink made a double change soon afterwards and his team started to play with more urgency, although at the expense of their accuracy.

With Russia pushing forward Spain started to hit them on the counter-attack with Torres enjoying much more space until he found himself surprisingly replaced by Aragones in favour of Guiza.

However the move bore fruit on 73min as Fabregas flicked the ball over the top and Guiza beat the offside trap of a stretched Russian defence to chip delicately over the onrushing Akinfeev and give Spain a comfortable cushion.

They were flowing and Silva completed the rout on 82min, converting another measured ball from Fabregas on the counter.

Russia almost got a late consolation but Casillas saved Dmitri Sychev's point blank header.

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