Gdansk, Poland: After six years of trying, Cesc Fabregas may finally have found a way into Spain's starting lineup. He just didn't expect it to come as a striker.
Fabregas responded to his surprise start over a recognized striker in Spain's opening match at the European Championship by scoring the equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Italy.
The 25-year-old has made 64 appearances for the world and European champions but has found it hard to win a regular start with Xavi Hernandez holding a similar playmaking role.
But since his move to Barcelona to start last season, Fabregas has been deployed in an advanced attacking position with the Catalan club and it seems to have carried over for Spain.
Coach Vicente del Bosque did not unveil his starting lineup for Thursday's Group C match against Ireland, but the former Arsenal captain is confident this tournament is shaping up to be his breakthrough in the national side.
"It's true that breaking into the Spanish team has been harder than in other places. I've been here (six) years and I never stopped thinking my moment would arrive," Fabregas said Wednesday at the Gdansk Arena.
"It's worked out phenomenally for me. I've reached an age where I can assume more responsibilities and I hope I get the chance to show the national team what I'm capable of."
Fabregas scored 15 goals last season in helping Barcelona win four trophies, including netting in the European Super Cup final helping it beat FC Porto 2-0. He has scored nine times for the national team.
"This has been a season where I've been scoring goals and I've been enjoying it more and more," Fabregas said. "Before I always used to look for the pass first. Now I'm enjoying this aspect."
While Fernando Torres' goal in the final four years ago won Spain the European title and Andres Iniesta's extra-time winner against the Netherlands saw it lift its first World Cup, neither of those heroics would have been possible without Fabregas.
Fabregas' winning penalty over Italy in the quarterfinals in 2008 not only allowed Spain to progress, the players credit it as being the impetus to its run of recent successes. Fabregas' pass to Iniesta in the 116th minute at Soccer City provided the most important goal in the country's history.
"Basically I play the same (position as in Barcelona) but a little more forward," Fabregas explained. "I'm getting passes a little bit more from behind, and I've got my back to goal more which is different for me.
"I'm happy there because I feel I can use a lot of mobility and go anywhere. I cannot say that I don't like this position because I really like it."