Italy beat England on penalties at Euro '12
By Graham Dunbar ,Ap Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 12:09 am TWN
KIEV, Ukraine -- After two hours of clever, often dominating but in the end fruitless play, Italy found the answer against England.
Alessandro Diamanti scored the decisive kick Sunday to send Italy through to the European Championship semifinals with a 4-2 win in the shootout following a 0-0 tie with England.
Italy will next play Germany in the semifinals on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland. Defending champion Spain plays Portugal on Wednesday in Donetsk, Ukraine.
"We deserved this victory," Diamanti said. "The penalties rewarded our dominance during the match. It's only fair, we played a great match and battled from the first to the last minute."
But not until penalties by Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo — with an audacious slow chip-shot down the middle of the goal — and Antonio Nocerino did the Azzurri find the net. Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney scored England's penalties.
The difference: Ashley Young hit the crossbar with England's third, and Ashley Cole's attempt was saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
For England, it was yet another exit from a major tournament in the quarterfinals after a penalty shootout. England lost to Portugal in the same manner at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.
"It's obviously a hard way to go out," England striker Wayne Rooney said. "And it's maybe happened too many times now."
England briefly led the shootout after Riccardo Montolivo missed Italy's second penalty. His shot went wide of Joe Hart's right post as the England goalkeeper guessed correctly.
Rooney then sent Buffon the wrong way, firing in his spot kick to the keeper's right to give England a 2-1 lead.
The momentum shifted after Pirlo's bold piece of skill leveled it 2-2.
"I just saw that the goalkeeper was moving a bit earlier so I decided to play it the other way," Pirlo said. "It just comes to you at that moment and it went well."
Not for England.
"We have done the country proud, but again we go home with heartbreak and it's difficult to take," said Gerrard, who played in both those previous shootout losses.
The match ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of play. The Italians twice hit the post, but were also let down by poor composure in front of the net. Diamanti clipped the post with a curling cross in the 101st minute, and swept a shot wide in the clearest chance of the second period of extra time.
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