Spain's Cesc Fabregas says that he has no intention of letting Sunday's Euro 2008 final against Germany slip through his hands.
The Arsenal midfielder, who set up Spain's last two goals in Thursday's 3-0 semi-final win over Russia, knows all too well what it's like to fall at the final hurdle having lost out to Barcelona with the Gunners in the 2006 Champions League final.
And after the Russian rout which set Spain up for a tilt at their first major honour in 44 years he insisted: “Listen I know what it's like to lose a major final, I don't want to lose another one.”
Coach Luis Aragones has preferred to start Xavi in midfield throughout this Euro with Fabregas coming on as a super sub late on in the game.
But here at the Ernst Happel stadium Fabregas got called up sooner than expected when striker David Villa had to come off injured in the 34th minute.
Fabregas, who scored the winning penalty in the spot kick shoot out over Italy in the quarters, made what many regarded as a match winning contribution.
After Xavi had set Spain on their way the 21-year-old Fabregas was at the heart of goals from Daniel Guiza and David Silva.
Asked if this was the best game of his life he shrugged: “Maybe, but I'll have to watch it on video again to have a better opinion.
“I don't think I changed the game though when I came on, I just played the way I could.”
He said converting the penalty that secured Spain's 4-2 victory over Italy in the last eight had been crucially important to him and the team.
“It was a defining moment, one of the most important of my life. Everything went well, it could have gone wrong.”
History now beckons for Spain who have fallen at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup or Euro three times in recent years, with their sole major honour the European championships of 1964.
“History is waiting for us, hopefully! We'll have to try to play our best game of the tournament (against Germany),” said Fabregas.
“The Germans are very experienced and very competitive but if we play like we did tonight we have a good chance.”
He'll be coming up against an old adversary from the Premier League in Germany's Chelsea captain Michael Ballack.
“Ballack's doing an amazing job for Germany and for me he is one of the players of the tournament.”
One key to Spain's run of success which has seen it brush aside the Russians twice, Greece, Sweden and Italy, is their mental fortitude, a point underlined by Fabregas.
“We forged this team spirit in qualifying. There's always this doubt in Spain. We've got through the semi-final and now the final but no one was expecting us to be where we are now.
“We've displayed great mental strength, that's the key.”
After this latest starring role Fabregas, who scored his first international goal in the opening 4-1 win over Russia, could quite understandably expect to be named in the starting XI against the Germans back here at the Ernst Happel stadium on Sunday.
But he said: “If the boss says I can play that's better for me, but I just want to help my team.”
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