• 52°

Spain blanks Russia, reaches final

By Rob Murray
Associated Press
VIENNA, Austria ó Donít tell Spain it has been made an odds-on choice to win the European Championship.
The Spaniards scored three second-half goals Thursday to beat Russia 3-0 and reach the final for the first in 24 years, giving the team a chance to shed its status as one of soccerís biggest underachievers.
iFor many years we havenít won anything, while Germany is always up there fighting for the titles,î said Xavi Hernandez, who scored Spainís first goal. iSo I would say Germany is the favorite.î
Dani Guiza and David Silva also scored to give the Spaniards a shot at their second European title on Sunday at Ernst Happel Stadium. Spain, which won the 1964 European tournament, ended its run of five quarterfinal defeats by beating Italy in a penalty shootout Sunday. It confirmed its title aspirations with a penetrating passing attack on a slick surface in pouring rain against Russia.
iIt was difficult, especially the first half. I think it was an extraordinary second half,î Spain coach Luis Aragones said. iThatís what we wanted, to be in the final. But thereís an adversary called Germany that is going to be interesting.î
The Spaniards and Germans have not played a competitive match since a 1-1 draw in the 1994 World Cup. Overall, Germany has won eight of 19 meetings, with Spain taking five and participating in six draws. In competitive games, it is 4-1-2 for Germany.
Germany, which beat Turkey 3-2 on Thursday night, is seeking a record fourth Euro title.
iThis team is already making history, but we can do even more,î striker Fernando Torres said. iWeíre proud of reaching the final, and against Germany on top of it all, which is a great rival.î
Spain will face Germany without striker David Villa, who was injured while taking a free kick in the first half.
Villa, the tournamentís leading scorer with four goals, limped off the field and was replaced by Cesc Fabregas in the 34th minute. Aragones said Villa will miss the final.
iHe has a pull,î the coach said.
Germany coach Joachim Loew was asked if Spain compared with Portugal, which the Germans beat in the quarterfinals.
iSpain is a lot better than Portugal. It is a lot more flexible and not so predictable,î Loew said. iThey keep the ball well in their own rows, and itís very hard to intercept. The Spain team shows great ease and itís very economical.î

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