Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russian fairytale at Euro-2008 ends

Spain coach Luis Aragones has seen enough of his team to think it is ready to face Germany in the final even without the European Championship's leading scorer.

David Villa, who has scored four goals at Euro 2008, will miss Sunday's final after picking up an early injury in Thursday's 3-0 win over Russia. The Spaniards scored all three goals after Villa was replaced by Cesc Fabregas in the 34th minute, giving Aragones a hint as to what he will do without the Valencia striker in the final.

"We were doing well with one forward. It's better for numbers in midfield, for pressing, and that's how you get Xavi (Hernandez) scoring," Aragones said. "Make them feel free."

Fabregas set up both goals after Xavi scored, first for Dani Guiza and then for David Silva, giving Spain a shot at its second European title. He came on when Villa strained a muscle in his leg while taking a free kick.

"Villa will miss the final," Aragones said. "It's not serious, but he'll miss the final because he has a pull."

But against Germany, Aragones can count on Fabregas, who flicked a ball over the top for Guiza to score with the outside of his right foot high in the 73rd, and then slid a pass through for an unmarked Silva to score from inside the box in the 82nd.

"I know how well he can perform," Aragones said of Fabregas. "I like a player like Cesc, 20 years old and someone who has acquired the experience of someone who's 27, 28. To us, he's important."

Xavi scored in the 50th minute after an exchange of passes with Andres Iniesta, who eluded one defender before crossing the ball into the box for Xavi to side-foot through goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev's legs.

Spain, which won the 1964 European tournament, had ended its run of five quarterfinal defeats by beating Italy in a penalty shootout Sunday, but it confirmed its title aspirations with its penetrative passing on a slick surface in the pouring rain against Russia.

"The team has been strong mentally for a long time," Aragones said. "It's important to not only play good football, you need to know how to compete. That's what we wanted, to be in the final. But there's an adversary called Germany, that is going to be interesting."

Russia coach Guus Hiddink still has never taken a team past the semifinals, falling at that stage when leading the Netherlands at the 1998 World Cup and with South Korea four years later.

"It was their plan that they were going to make us tired so we couldn't make a fist of it in the second half," Hiddink said. "However, we can be proud of reaching where we did and of coming third. We faced really strong opposition tonight and they deserved to win."

Spain, which beat the Soviet Union 2-1 in the 1964 final in Madrid, had never lost to Russia in four previous matches - including a 4-1 win two weeks ago in the first round - and it didn't look like blemishing that record from the start at Ernst Happel Stadium.

"The team pushed on and I think we dominated the match. I'm very happy about being in the final," said Iniesta, who was voted man of the match. "It's a match that we want to win."

Russia was without central defender Denis Kolodin and substitute Dimtry Torbinski from the 3-1 extra-time win over the Netherlands on Saturday due to suspension from accumulated cards. Kolodin was replaced by Vasily Berezutsky.

Spain retained the same team that beat Italy in the shootout after a scoreless draw. It was the fourth time in five matches that Aragones had fielded the same lineup, with the reserve players only getting their chance in a meaningless group win over Greece.

Andrei Arshavin, who had scored in both games since returning from a two-match ban, had only real involvement in the game when he was taken down by Carles Puyol in the 16th.

"I didn't get the ball. Maybe I wasn't quick enough, but I tried my best," Arshavin said. "Our team was physically weaker than Spain. When you don't have the physical skills, it is tough to get through, you have to rely on tactics. Today, Spain were more technically skilled than us."

Spain was the more incisive with its passing in the first half, giving Iniesta, Villa and Fernando Torres half-chances that were ultimately ruined by either the slick surface, a poor final touch or the safe hands of Akinfeyev.

Spain completely overran Russia in the second half, with only terrible finishing from Torres and last-ditch defending keeping the game close.