Euro 2012: Italy beat England on penalties, into semis
Italy rounded off the quartet of Euro 2012 semi-finalists on Sunday as England once again exited a major finals in a penalty shootout.
Italy rounded off the quartet of Euro 2012 semi-finalists on Sunday as England once again exited a major finals in a penalty shootout. (All AFP and AP Images)
Both sides had failed to find the net in 120 minutes of play, though Italy had been unfortunate not to win it well before they prevailed 4-2 on penalties with playmaker Andrea Pirlo the standout performer.
England's most creative player, Steven Gerrard, was restricted to doing defensive duties. He and Scott Parker in England's midfield engine room were also struggling with injuries.
Striker Mario Balotelli, who lacked the finishing on many occasions during the match, had no such hesitation from the spot as he took the opening penalty and put Italy ahead.
The shootout however soon turned in England's favour as both Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney converted.
Italy went 2-1 down in the shootout after Riccardo Montolivo missed his penalty.
Then came the penalty of the match as Andrea Pirlo fooled England goalkeeper Joe Hart as he struck a spot kick that was brilliantly chipped down the middle.
Ashley Young stepped up for the penalty after Pirlo's chipped effort. The Manchester United struck fiercely but the ball rebounded off the bar to leave England 2-2 with Italy.
Antonio Nocerino put Italy 3-2 ahead and Gianluigi Buffon saved from Ashley Cole to leave the Italians a penalty away from a quarter-final win.
Italy's passage to the semi-finals was soon sealed as Alessandro Diamanti calmly slotted home to make it six losses in seven tournament shootouts for England.
The only concern for Cesare Prandelli was when midfielder Daniele De Rossi and fullback Ignazio Abate left the England match with muscle problems.
England were lucky to have even taken the match into penalties as Italy dominated for most parts. England had their keeper Joe Hart and the Italians lack of finishing to thank for taking the match so far.