Sergio Ramos was brimming with pride after his remarkable penalty redemption helped him earn the Carlsberg Man of the Match award for his role in Spain's UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final win against Portugal.
With Wednesday's shoot-out at the Donbass Arena finely poised at 2-2, there was no shortage of pressure on Ramos. If he was feeling the strain, he did a remarkable job of hiding it, chipping feather-like down the middle of the goal just as Italy's Andrea Pirlo had against England on Sunday – a spot kick trademarked by the Czech Republic's Antonín Panenka ever since the 1976 UEFA European Championship final.
"I planned this," said the Real Madrid CF defender. "I'd been thinking about this in advance. It was a risk, of course, but I also had the confidence. I've seen how the goalkeeper moves so I was pretty sure he would go one way. I'm very happy my family and my future kids have something to remember."
Ramos's impudent spot kick was all the sweeter considering he skied his penalty when Madrid lost their semi-final shoot-out against FC Bayern München in April. "After the experience with Real Madrid in the Champions League, it was said I wasn't ready to take another one, but I was feeling very confident and now I'm proud," added the 26-year-old. "My coach knows me very well and he trusted I could do this. He's spent many years with me and he knows I'm a little crazy."
The penalty, though, was just the unexpected icing on the cake for Ramos – part of a Spain back line which has now kept nine successive clean sheets in major tournament knockout football. Former Portugal striker Nuno Gomes, who presented Ramos with this award, said: "Sergio played a very important role in this game. He added a lot of security to his team. After that, I was still in doubt who would win this game until the penalty that he scored."
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