Joy in Madrid, Portuguese distraught as Spain reach final

AFP News
Supporters of the Spanish national football team celebrate in Madrid
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Supporters of the Spanish national football team celebrate after Spain defeated Portugal during the Euro 2012 Championships on a giant screen near the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. Defending champions Spain beat Portugal 4-2 on penalties after their Euro 2012 semi-final finished 0-0 after extra-time

Thousands of Spain fans on Wednesday gathered in Madrid to watch their side's Euro 2012 semi-final against Portugal on giant screens, erupting in joy after the 4-2 win on penalties.

The atmosphere had been highly charged even before the penalty shoot-out in Donetsk, Ukraine, with the sound of whistles and firecrackers ringing out across the Spanish capital even before the first spot kicks were taken.

The fans had gathered from early evening outside Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium, while others massed in bars across the city, draped in the yellow and red national flag, and spilled out on to the pavements.

Wearing replica red shirts of the national side and with their cheeks painted yellow and red, they waved flags with one hand and held beer or soft drink cans in the other, with the masses cheering on every Spanish chance in the game.

But as the minutes ticked by, tension mounted as Portugal pressured, prompting anger among the crowd.

Some, like Lorena Santa Cruz, were disappointed at La Roja's performance.

"I'm really sorry but Portugal are quicker and they're reacting better," said the 32-year-old interior decorator.

But others still kept the faith, albeit through gritted teeth and with furrowed brows, as the match progressed.

"Portugal are better but now they're going to tire. Spain will have more chances," shouted Salvador Gonzalez, a 31-year-old consultant.

In the end the two cancelled each other out and it was Cesc Fabregas' winning spotkick which finally sparked whoops of joy in the capital and across Spain.

That contrasted with disbelief in Lisbon, where Portuguese fans had flocked to squares and cafes to cheer on their side.

After Fabregas' winner gloom descended on the massed throng.

"We believed to the end," said a young woman aged around 20, still defiantly brandishing a green and red scarf in the colours of the Seleccao.

"There's no point discussing the penalties - it's just a lottery," shouted a friend as he slammed an "unjust" result.

"They played so well throughout - they deserved to go to the final," said another fan, who gave his name as Luis.

"I think they're just unlucky," concluded a young girl who had painted her face in the national colours.