By Fitzgerald Cecilio

Donetsk, Ukraine

Defending champion Spain advanced to the final of the European Championship for the second straight time after edging Portugal, 4-2, in a penalty shootout Wednesday at Donbass Arena.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas scored the decisive penalty for the Spaniards, who advance the finals July 1 against the winner of the Germany-Italy tussle. The Germans and Italians will fight it out for the last championship slot Thursday

The Spaniards have reached the final of a major tournament for the third consecutive time after winning the 2008 edition of the Euro Championship and 2010 World Cup, tying the record set by West Germany in the 1970s.

It was the second successive game to go to penalties after Italy beat England in the last eight via shootout.

"The team has worked so hard," Fabregas told "I had the feeling that there would be penalties tonight. I wanted to take one if we had this opportunity".

"To be honest, I am very excited. To reach another final in four years is amazing," he added.

"We didn't succeed, but I don't regret anything. We have to look forward and prepare our players for the World Cup qualifiers," said Portugal coach Paulo Bento.

Xabi Alonso took the first spot kick for Spain but was saved by Patricio. It was followed by a save by Iker Casillas on Portugal's Joao Moutinho kick.

Midfielder Andres Iniesta scored first for Spain but defender Pepe tied the count with a strike into the left-hand corner.

Gerard Pique gave Spain the upperhand after a goal into the bottom left corner but once again Portugal tied the shootout with a score from striker Nani.

After Sergio Ramos made it 3-2 for Spain, Bruno Alvez 's strike hit the bar, paving the way for Fabregas' final goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored three goals in Portugal's last two wins, could only watch as Fabregas nailed the final count as he was scheduled to kick last, a move defended by Bento.

"We practiced penalties a lot in training, and then we decided who would take them. Spain won, and we haven't reached the final. But we're proud to have played like this," he said.


Jubilation and despair as Spain beats Portugal on penalties in a Euro 2012 semi-final that ended goaless after extra time

Spain beat Portugal 4-2 on penalties, putting them through to a Euro 2012 final meeting with either Germany or Italy and the possibility of unprecedented back-to-back wins


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Soccer - Spain Tops Portugal in Penalty Shootout, Advances to Euro Final