Euro 2012: Spain's attack struggles without Villa

As the European Championship whittles down to the final match, Spain's attack is still looking to find its form.

Updated: June 28, 2012 11:42 IST
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Donetsk: As the European Championship whittles down to the final match, Spain's attack is still looking to find its form.

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The defending champions reached their third straight major final by beating Portugal 4-2 in a penalty shootout on Wednesday following a 0-0 draw, but the Spanish team again failed to turn its overwhelming talent into scoring chances.

But maybe that doesn't matter.

"We're playing better in defense than what the characteristics of our players would suggest," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "That's what earns victories."

Spain dominated possession as it normally does, but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal at the Donbass Arena. It's not the first time at Euro 2012 that Spain's attack has failed to sparkle, and the team's lack of finishing up front could all be due to striker David Villa's injury absence.

On Wednesday, Del Bosque started little-used striker Alvaro Negredo over Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas, who have scored two goals each at the tournament. Negredo was eventually replaced in the 54th minute by Fabregas, who ended up scoring the decisive penalty.

"Spain held more control after the substitutions," Portugal coach Paulo Bento said through a translator. "They put in two players that have very strong characteristics in attack. They had possession and we had to run a lot, so it was hard to get the ball back."

In the shootout, Xabi Alonso missed the first spot kick, but Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique scored before Fabregas completed the victory.

Spain, which is trying to win a third straight major title, will next face Germany or Italy in the final on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. But the team's inability to score goals is still Spain's main worry.

"We have to improve in this aspect," Del Bosque said.

Luckily, the defense continues to be a strong point. The Spanish have conceded only six goals in their last 18 major tournament matches, including keeping nine cleansheets in knockout games.

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