Italy booked a date with Germany in the semifinals of the European Soccer Championship. That was after victory over Italy in a penalty shootout in Kiev, Ukraine. The man of the match was Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy left no doubt as to their attacking intentions by including hot-headed, but prodigious striker Mario Balotelli in the starting eleven. And the first chance belonged to the Azzurri - a cheeky volley by Daniele De Rossi in minute 3 beat England keeper Joe Hart but ricocheted off the post.
Only two minutes later, though, England could have taken the lead after a surprisingly energetic Glen Johnson was wide open before goal. Buffon came up with one of his patented saves.
Italy began attacking up Johnson’s left side and gradually pinned the Three Lions in their own half of the pitch. The Italians had 12 shots on goal in the first half, but many were from distance, and the match remained scoreless at the break.
Italy almost grabbed the lead immediately after the restart, but De Rossi failed to control the ball from point-blank range. And imprecision and some determined England defending conspired to deny the Italians for the rest of the second half, although they had four times as many shots on goal as England.
In fact, Wayne Rooney almost stole a win for the Three Lions in the dying minutes of regular time. But the match went into extra time.
In the two additional periods, both teams were clearly tired. Antonio Nocerino thought he had the game-winner five minutes before the final whistle, but he was correctly ruled offside.
England were playing for penalties, despite their tragic history in that particular discipline, and they got their wish.
They now probably wish they hadn’t. After England went ahead in the shootout, Ashley Young hit the crossbar.
Antonio Nacerino then wrong-footed blameless England keeper Joe Hart, and with the pressure on, Buffon gathered in Ashley Cole’s harmless effort.
Alessandro Diamanti then sealed a deserved win for the Italians, who progress to the semifinals and now meet Germany in Warsaw next Thursday.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Jane McIntosh