Spain celebrates success with Sevilla's Europa title
By Graham Dunbar ,AP
May 16, 2014, 12:05 am TWN
TURIN, Italy -- Spanish soccer wins. Again.
Sevilla added another title to the top-ranked country's recent roll of international honors Wednesday, beating Portugal's champion Benfica in a penalty shootout after the Europa League final finished 0-0 after extra time.
Since 2006, Sevilla has won this competition three times, Barcelona has won three Champions League titles and Spain has taken home three straight major tournament trophies.
Though Sevilla did not play with the precision passing made famous by the national team or Barcelona, its technique in taking and saving penalties was outstanding. Just as Spain's was when it ousted Portugal in a shootout in the Euro 2012 semifinals.
Victory here ensured Spain will sweep the season-ending European club titles on May 24 when Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid play in the Champions League final.
Of course, next season's curtain-raising UEFA Super Cup in August will now also be all-Spanish clash featuring the two club competition winners.
Before then, the biggest prize of all could return to Spain.
Spain will kick off its World Cup title defense in Brazil next month and seek to be the first back-to-back winner since Brazil in 1962. That would also set a record of four consecutive top-level tournament triumphs following the dominant Euro 2008 and 2012 teams.
Such is Spain's strength that it found space for only one Sevilla player — defender Alberto Moreno — in the 30-man provisional World Cup squad announced Tuesday.
Sevilla midfielder Stephane Mbia — who will go to the World Cup with Cameroon — said he was not surprised at Spain's winning streak.
“It's just tactics. Think about everything. They play with the head,” said Mbia, who saluted to Sevilla fans behind the goal after scoring its second penalty in the 4-2 shootout win.
“Spanish football is like a family. It's a great thing for a player,” said the Cameroonian, who has also played in France and England.
Sevilla coach Unai Emery said his team had had a “responsibility to win” the trophy for fans after a 19-match, nine-month trek through the tournament.
It began Aug. 1 with a 3-0 at home to Mladost Podgorica of Montenegro.
“There were 30,000 in the stadium when usually they would be on holiday or on the beach,” Emery said.
Not bad for a club which failed to qualify for the competition by right.
Sevilla got into the Europa League only after two clubs which finished above it in last season's La Liga table were denied entry by UEFA for their financial problems — the flipside of Spain's soccer success during a major economic crisis there.
Malaga's and Rayo Vallecano's losses led to Sevilla's gain. And Spain's. Again.