THE DAY REPLAYED – Following the end of a long, gruelling season of club football in Europe, Spain and Italy, the finalists of UEFA EURO 2012, played out 120 minutes of fascinating football in Fortaleza, with a sudden-death penalty shoot-out required to separate the sides.
The conclusion finally came after Leonardo Bonucci blazed over from 12 yards to give Jesus Navas the opportunity to send his side through to the final in the Maracana. The Manchester City midfielder made no mistake to break Italian hearts – and condemn Gli Azzurri to their fifth loss in six penalty shoot-outs in FIFA competitions.
Cesare Prandelli’s side were arguably the better side in normal time. They were organised, sharp, solid and kept the ball well, even drawing ‘Ole’s’ from the crowd at one point. On reflection, they would have been delighted with their play, but devastated not to have scored. Christian Maggio and Daniele De Rossi will rue not scoring with headers when unmarked, while Emanuele Giaccherini hit the post.
There was more spark from Spain in extra time, with Juan Mata controlling the tempo and Navas a constant threat down the right. Jordi Alba went close; Xavi hit the post – as Vicente Del Bosque and Prandelli patrolled the touchline nervously. Their stress levels increased still further when the spot-kicks began. Even Shakira looked relieved when her partner Gerard Pique put his penalty past Gianluigi Buffon.
Twelve penalties were scored consecutively before Bonucci was unlucky with the 13th. Navas put his effort low to Buffon’s right and although the keeper dived the right way, it was just beyond his reach. Spain booked their place against Brazil – and the world will be watching.
What it means…
Italy face Uruguay in the battle for bronze in Salvador, the scene of Gli Azzurri’s loss to Brazil and La Celeste’s win over Nigeria in the group stage. That match kicks-off at 13.00 local time on Sunday, with the showpiece taking place six hours later. Brazil have had an extra day to recuperate from their semi-final exertions and have already arrived in Rio to prepare for the game. They will also have been happy to see the game go to extra time.
Stat of the day
12 – Spain and Italy’s conversion of the 12 consecutive penalties is a record in FIFA World Cups™ and FIFA Confederations Cups. Also, this was the highest-scoring penalty shoot-out at a senior men’s match in a FIFA tournament.
Quote of the day
“Despite all the things they’ve won - our players feel like kids! They’re playing Brazil at the Maracana and that’s taken them back to boyhood days,” Vicente Del Bosque, Spain coach.
Friday and Saturday give the four teams a chance to draw breath before the action resumes on Sunday with the match for third place, followed by the first meeting between Brazil and Spain for 14 years.
How has this match finished 0-0!! What a game
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) June 27, 2013