Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Casillas keeping it real for Spain

Ever since Spain cracked its curse of never beating Italy in a major tournament in 88 years and conquered its bizarre and dismal record of having lost three times on penalties on the same date, the public fervor in that country has reached unprecedented levels.

Many of the Spanish players could not help but become caught up in the excitement, and at this stage of the European Championships where mentality is vital, the swelling in confidence in the camp is palpable.

Whereas a mindset of belief and determination was needed before Spain's historic quarterfinal win over the Italians, a different kind of approach is required ahead of Thursday's semifinal against Russia. Now, the most dangerous threat for the Spanish is overconfidence. Strong leadership from the top is needed to keep it at bay.

The man the players look to, even more than head coach Luis Aragones, is their captain – goalkeeper and spiritual leader Iker Casillas.

Casillas took over the captain's armband when Real Madrid striker Raul was left out of the squad, and he treats his role with deadly seriousness.

He is the man who brokered an uneasy peace between headstrong defender Sergio Ramos and the outspoken coach Aragones, two men who fight a daily battle to keep their mutual dislike under control. And when striker Fernando Torres looked to be on the verge of boiling over after being substituted in the opening match, Casillas was the one who took him aside for a compassionate and calming word or two.

"Iker is a 10 at everything," Aragones told reporters in Austria this week. "As a keeper, as a captain and with the way he behaves. He is a phenomenon."

Casillas was the hero against Italy, making two critical saves that swung the shootout in Spain's favor, but he may have done even more good with his actions following the quarterfinal victory.

While his colleagues hugged and cried and danced and spoke of destiny and divine intervention, Casillas was an island of calm. He knows that while dreams of the big prize had just been brought into sharper focus, they still are a long way from becoming reality.

"It is emotional to have become a part of history and to see how people are experiencing all this," Casillas said. "But we also now need to call for calm and patience.

"It's true that we had this inner war concerning the quarterfinals. We made it to the semis but we were lucky to get over that barrier. But we would be naive to think that because we beat Russia 4-1 (in their group play opener), we'll be able to easily make the final."

Casillas is only 27 but brings a confidence forged from spending his entire adult life in elite football circles.

He was considered mature enough at 18 to be installed as Real's first-choice keeper and had a Champions League winners medal in his possession four days after his 19th birthday.

Until now, the international game had brought him only angst. For all his calm demeanor and refusal to overhype Spain's title chances, deep down he knows full well that there may never be a better opportunity than this.

"We have always had great players," Casillas said. "But this is the best group I have been involved with. I think we understand what it takes."