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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spanish players celebrate at the end of the match after their stunning victory over Russia in the Euro 2008 semifinal at the Ernst-Happel Stadium in Vienna on Friday.Photo: AFP
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Spain coach Luis Aragones quoted former England striker Gary Lineker after his side thrashed Russia 3-0 to set up a Euro 2008 final against Germany on Sunday.

Goals from Xavi, Daniel Guiza and David Silva fired Spain to a comprehensive semifinal victory here against the team who had stunned Holland in the previous round.

But despite coaching the only side to have avoided defeat in this tournament, Aragones sounded a word of warning to his countrymen ahead of the final.

And Aragones claimed that his calm exterior masked the emotion he was feeling within, before then quoting Lineker.

"I'm not very expressive, I feel very happy inside but I'm not an extrovert," said the 69-year-old known as the 'Wise Man of Hortoleza'.

"But really I feel happy for the players, for the fans and for my family. I even have a grandchild here who moved me to tears.

"I don't express my feelings, you'll never see me do that. I'm not a very festive person, I don't celebrate much, just like I don't get depressed when we lose.

"But I'm very happy for the team because they deserve to be champions but there's one more hurdle because there are the Germans.

"And as Lineker said: football is a simple game, 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."

Aragones started with his preferred starting XI but was forced into making a change 10 minutes before the break as striker David Villa injured a leg.

The Spain coach opted to bring on midfielder Cesc Fabregas rather than a like for like forward in Guiza, but the move paid dividends.

"With (Fernando) Torres and Villa (in attack) we had a few problems with how to control the midfield," he said.

"But with Cesc we had another midfielder so as a team we passed the ball well and it's difficult to stop us."

Russia couldn't stop Spain's midfield five from darting around and creating space but another of their problems was that star man Andrei Arshavin was kept quiet, failing to spark some life into his teammates.

"We knew how he plays in a free role and in every area there was someone supposed to keep tabs on him," explained Aragones.

"Whenever he left (defensive midfielder Marcos) Senna behind, someone else was there or when he went out onto the wings, someone was there and ready for him.

"He's an excellent player, very fast but there's other players in the Russian team that I like as much as him."

Aragones could have one problem ahead of the final as Villa looks like he may have to sit it out with injury.

But his coach didn't seem too concerned, particularly given how well Spain played when they replaced the forward with Arsenal midfielder Fabregas.

"David Villa is injured and I don't know if he will play in the final. As for Fabregas we know how well he can play.

"He's a young guy but we have other players who are performing just as well."

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