Fabregas determined to seize final chance

SPAIN’S Cesc Fabregas says that he has no intention of letting tomorrow night’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 competition with Fabregas coming on as a super sub late on in the game.

But on Thursday night 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.’’

Fabregas added that Spain have been spurred on by a desire to prove their critics wrong. ;‘There are always doubts. Nobody was expecting us to be where we are now,’’ he said.

Meanwhile the Spanish Football Federation yesterday refused to write off Villa’s chances of playing in tomorrow’s decider.

Villa, 26, injured a thigh muscle in Thursday’s semi-final win over Russia and said immediately after the game he would not be fit.

But now he will have hospital tests before any final decision is made.

‘‘We will make another statement when we have spoken to a doctor and have the results,’’ said the Spanish Federation.

Villa, for his part, sounded a more downbeat note.

‘‘I’m a little sad that I won’t be there to take part but it’s better that a teammate who is fit plays instead of me, particularly as my injury has left me limping quite badly,’’ he said.

‘‘Now I have to enjoy the show from outside. To play on Sunday would be a lottery.

‘‘I would do it even if I had to play on one leg but this is a team — there are other players who will do better 100% than one who is injured.

‘‘At the start I was really upset because I knew it was going to be very difficult to play in the final if we got there.

‘‘I just want to enjoy Sunday and celebrate winning the European Championship with everyone else. This is an achievement for the whole squad and we want to take the glory on Sunday.’’

Meanwhile Germany coach Joachim Low feels there will be less pressure on his side in tonight’s match than there was earlier in the tournament.

It is difficult to predict a winner, because although Spain have form on their side having been victorious in their last 11 matches and unbeaten in 21, Germany have the trophies and history to back up their argument, having won this tournament three times in the past.

Germany have not been at their best throughout this tournament though, losing to Croatia in the group phase and then struggling past Turkey at the semi-final stage in Basle.

However, with a final spot now assured, Low feels his players will be carrying less weight on their shoulders than before.

“The pressure which was there before both knock-out games is now slipping off the players somewhat, because we are in the final,” said Low.

“During the tournament we have certainly not played as consistently as we intended to, but you saw that was the case with all the other teams. It did not only go that way with us.

“We are now looking forward to this final.”

Germany can consider themselves somewhat fortunate to have seen off the challenge of Turkey, who were by far the better side in the first half of Wednesday’s semi-final, and were also a match for their opponents in the second period.

But Philipp Lahm’s 90th-minute strike sent the 1996 European champions through to another final, and Low is delighted to have guided his team through to the final in his first tournament in charge of Germany, but the 48-year-old insists he not going to settle for just that.

“There is enormous and extraordinary joy among us, but we are not yet at our goal. We also want to take the final step and lift the title,” said Low, who took over from Jurgen Klinsmann following the 2006 World Cup.

“It is a nice experience to be in a final. Personally it is something really special for me and I am enjoying it.”


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