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  • 02:35 PM ET  06.26

Full time: And the Spanish are through to the final, where they'll meet three-time champion Germany on Sunday in Vienna. The victory is deserved. It's Spain's first appearance in the final of a major international tournament since Euro 1984, when they dropped a 2-0 decision to a France side featuring Michael Platini. Today's triumph marks 21 straight international matches for Spain since its last defeat in November 2006. 

88': Russia's well-placed free kick into the box is redirected by Konstatin Zurianov on goal for his team's best scoring chance of the second half. But Casillas refuses to let the Russians spoil his clean sheet with a cosmetic goal in the last 10 minutes -- as they did in the June 10 meeting between the sides.

87': There's little tension underlying Spain's endgame, as they casually work the ball to one another with full time just minutes away. Russia appropriately looks like the defeated side.

82': GOAL! This time it's David Silva, who drives a left-footed finish past Akinfeev to extend Spain's advantage to 3-0. Curtains. Spain and Germany -- the world's fourth- and fifth-ranked teams according to the FIFA rankings -- will clash on this pitch for the European Championship on Sunday.

78': Another corner for the Spanish is fruitless but they're really pressing now. Could a third goal be far away?

73': GOAL! A Spanish counter-attack finds the Russians looking ragged in retreat -- and paying for it. Ramos dumps to Fabregas, who flicks a beautiful rainbow to the oncoming Dani Guiza, who confident drives home Spain's second goal. Could this be curtains for Guus Hiddink's charges?

68': Luis Aragones has made his second and third substitutions, removing Xavi and Fernando Torres (!) in favor of Liverpool's Xavi Alonso and Mallorca's Dani Guiza. I suppose Aragones doesn't want to risk losing Torres for Sunday's final should the striker earn a second yellow card. But if Russia equalizes and the match goes to penalty kicks, you've risked taking one of the best kick-takers in the world out of the equation.  

65': Pavlyuchenko was just whistled offsides on the only thing resembling a Russian attack in the last 10 minutes. More "Seven Nation Army" from the soggy supporters.

63': Torres nearly volleys home a goal for Spain but misses wide left. Spain continues to knock on the door. Will Hiddink make any adjustments? 

61': Fabregas slots a picture-perfect through ball to Iniesta, who nearly doubles the Spanish lead but drives hit shot into Akinfeev. Spain has experienced more and more success carving up the Russian defense during the second half.  

60': Bilyaletdinov makes his presence known early, earning a quick yellow for his reckless tackle near midfield. Spain will take a free kick about 35 yards from the goal.

56': Hiddink is making his first two substitutions of the match in an effort to jump-start his stagnant offense. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is coming on for Igor Semshov, while Dmitri Sychev is spelling Ivan Saenko.

55': Spain nearly doubled their advantage moments ago but Fernando Torres put an golden opportunity over the crossbar. The favorites look more confident in attack.

50': GOAL! Barcelona midfielder Xavi emphatically redirects an Iniesta shot from outside the box to put La Furia Roja on the board. 

49': Sergio Ramos runs up the right side and dumps a cross sharply into the area but Russia makes easy clearance.

46': We're underway in the second half from Vienna, still stuck on zeroes. It just occurred to me Spain's last goal in a meaningful game was David Villa's last-minute strike during stoppage time to torpedo Sweden on June 14.

Halftime: The sides break play for the half locked in a scoreless draw. Spain has outplayed their underdog opponents through 45 minutes, putting six shots on goal (compared to Russia's two). But it was a relatively timid first half overall, with the Spanish successfully bottling up the Russian attack but firing blanks on their best scoring opportunities. One other note: Pavlyuchenko has really developed a nose for the net since the Sweden game and appears dead-set on making the score sheet today.

43': Sergei Ignashevich grapples Fernando Torres to the ground near midfield and the Spanish have a free kick about 45 yards from the goal. But Xavi's speculative attempt falls safely into Akinfeev's waiting hands.

39': The Spanish have benefitted from Fabregas' excellent pace since the substitution. The playmaker just found Torres on the right side of the penalty, but the Liverpool striker misfired on his shot attempt (for the second time today).

35': With their leading scorer having retreated to the sidelines, Pavlyuchenko almost catches the Spanish defense with their guard down but misses. Fabregas, the gifted 21-year-old Arsenal midfielder, has come on for David Villa. They're saying the Spanish striker hurt himself on his free-kick attempt in the 29th minute, but the replay doesn't reveal much.

34': Our first major talking point? David Villa down on the pitch with an injury. Cesc Fabregas is getting ready on the sidelines. 

31': Pavlyuchenko received a pass just outside the area and pulls the trigger, launching a shot just wide right of the goal. De Bleeckere orders a goal kick but Pavlyuchenko appeals to the official, claiming Casillas got a fingertip on the ball and Russia should be awarded a corner. The ref doesn't budge but the replay (barely) confirms Pavlyuchenko's claim. 

29': Russia commits a foul giving the Spanish their best set piece of the match so far, about 30 yards from the goal. David Villa's strike lands directly in Akingeev's hands. Spain short-circuits the Russian counter-attack.

27': Xavi drives an entry pass into the area where Iniesta's unorthodox (read: off his back) trap lands at his feet. But the Barcelona midfielder whiffs on the shot attempt and Russia clears.

23': Andrei Arshavin, Man of the Match in Russia's must-win victories over Sweden and the Netherlands, has spent most of today's game in Marcos Senna's back pocket.

20': Andres Iniesta attempts to thread a through pass to David Silva, but puts a little too much behind the ball and Russia clears. Several rumblings at the 20-minute mark of this one but nothing truly dangerous thus far.

16': Russia earns a free kick just outside the area and directly in front of the goal, a dangerous position for the Spanish. Pavlyuchenko takes the kick but it curves safely above the woodwork.

15': The skies are opening up. Here's hoping the pitch holds up. 

13': The Spanish just showed some nice imagination in attack, moving the ball around with intent and economy in Russia's third, but nothing to show for it.

11': The sides exchange counter-attacks. Euro 2008 scoring leader David Villa breaks free of his marker and rifles a shot from 25 yards, but Akinfeev arrives fully-extended to make the save. 

9': Russia developes their first attack of the game, moving the ball around between midfielders Spain gathers behind the ball. They give away possession. Spain looks organized in counter-attack with Marcus Senna leading the charge across midfield -- but nothing comes of it.

7': Torres shoots on goal from an off-balance position but can't get much behind it. Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev safely repels the game's first shot on goal.

5': Spain earns the first corner fo the game. Sergio Ramos attempts a scissor kick on Xavi's entry but it's deflected. The Spanish attack is becoming more organized, pressuring the Russians and nearly earning their second corner right there.

2': Spain sports their gold-colored away shirts with Russia wearing red. A timid opening sees possession change hands a couple times around midfield.

0': No substantial lineup changes for either side as the sides take the pitch in Vienna.

* * *

Here's your Starting Eleven, a to-the-point list of things you need to know about today's second Euro 2008 semifinal between Spain and Russia, getting underway in just about a half hour:

1. Overconfidence could prove Spain's most dangerous foe in today's rematch of the Group D opener from 16 days ago, when La Furia Roja asserted their place on the short list of tournament favorites with an emphatic 4-1 thumping of Russia. But standout playmaker Andrei Arshavin was suspended for the group stage meeting, and the return of the do-everything midfielder has keyed the Russian resurgence. They're a different team.

2. Russia didn't back down from Holland's high-octane offense in Saturday's quarterfinal victory, putting the pressure squarely on the Dutch defense early with a flurry of speculative shots. The lesson: Don't expect Guus Hiddink's men to stand around in awe of Spain's similarly prolific offense.

3. The first rematch of Euro 2008 is a clash between the first two champions in tournament history. Russia won the inaugural event as the Soviet Union in 1960, while Spain brought home the hardware in 1964 -- a victory which remains the country's lone triumph in a major international tournament.

4. Had England defeated Croatia at Wembley Stadium in the final qualifier this past November, the Russians would have placed third in Group E and missed this month's finals altogether.

5. Spain hasn't lost since November 2006, a string of 20 matches which includes a pair of victories against the reigning world champions during the past three months: a 1-0 win over Italy in a March friendly and Sunday's quarterfinal victory in penalty kicks.

6. The Spanish beat their quarterfinal jinx with Sunday's thrilling shootout victory over the Italians, advancing to the final four of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 1984. But Spain has earned a reputation as a perennial underachiever in major tournaments on merit. Could a country famous for flattering to deceive on the international stage be ripe for the upset picking?

7. Russia will be playing without persistent attacking midfielder Dmitri Tobinski, whose timely 112th-minute strike opened a 2-1 lead over the Netherlands in Saturday's quarterfinal. He's suspended for today's match after picking up a second yellow card against the Dutch.

8. Fernando Torres is due for a breakout game. David Villa has poached four goals and garnered the headlines for the Spanish, but "El Nino" remains the team's most dangerous threat up top. Since scoring three times at the 2006 World Cup, Torres has emerged as one of the world's most fearsome predators, netting 33 goals for Liverpool this year in his debut season for the storied English club.

9. Vienna's Ernst Happel Stadium lends the backdrop for today's match. The tournament's largest venue has hosted four Champions League finals, including Ajax's 1-0 victory over AC Milan in 1995. Its namesake was Austria's greatest coach, who won a European Cup with Feyenoord and Hamburg and led the Dutch to the brink of the 1978 World Cup.

10. Today's referee is Belgium native Frank De Bleeckere, perhaps best known for sending off Marco Materazzi on a pair of highly dubious yellow cards in the first leg of their Champions League tie with Liverpool this past February.

11. A penalty shootout would favor the Spanish. Now don't get nervous: That doesn't mean Spain will adopt the eye-wateringly boring defensive approach employed by the Italians this past Sunday. But if there's nothing to separate the sides after 120 minutes, you've got to favor the Spanish stable of clinical kick-takers like Torres, David Villa, Marcos Senna and Xavi. (Not to mention the world's best goalkeeper in Real Madrid's Iker Casillas.)

No team has grown more during this tournament than surprise package Russia (including Turkey). Hiddink has further bolstered his reputation as a miracle worker, after bringing Australia through to the knockout stage in the 2006 World Cup, leading South Korea to an unlikely third-place finish in 2002, and helming Holland to the semis in 1998. But there's a resolve and mental fortitude about this Spanish team that's been missing among previous editions. Self-destruction on the international stage is always a concern with the Spanish -- but, for once, it's not a foregone conclusion. Prediction: Spain 2, Russia 1

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