24th of June 2012 Author: Glo Wood
Italy edged past England after the only quarter final that required extra time and a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner. Cesare Prandelli's men were the ones who had the most chances and the better ball possession and their efforts were rewarded at the end of 120 minutes as they won the penalty shoot-out 4-2, with substitute Alessandro Diamanti netting the decisive spot kick.
Italy made their intentions clear right away as they created the first big chance of the match after just three minutes: Daniele De Rossi sent a swirling half-volley from distance, the ball went past Joe Hart but the post rescued the Manchester City goalkeeper. England replied just one minute later when Glen Johnson's shot from close range was denied by an unlikely reflex from Gianluigi Buffon. Then England had a few good moments and Rooney went close with a diving header on 14 minutes. Then it was almost all Italy until half time, with Cassano and Balotelli requiring extreme efforts from Joe Hart and his defenders. The last and biggest chance of the first half was in the 41st minute when Cassano cushioned a ball for Balotelli inside the six-yard box but the Manchester City striker blew that one as well by firing over the crossbar.
Italy had another huge chance two minutes after the interval, De Rossi was completely unmarked six yards out but got the shot totally wrong and sent the ball well wide. Four minutes later it was Balotelli's turn again, he was denied by Hart and then Montolivo fired well over on the rebound. Italy continued their domination but there were no more clear cut chances until two minutes from time when substitute Nocerino received a good pass inside the penalty area but his effort was deflected behind by a superb intervention from Glen Johnson.
The game didn't change in extra time, Italy continued to push and they got close again on 100 minutes when substitute Alessandro Diamanti curled in a tricky cross that went past the goalkeeper but bounced back off the post. Diamanti had another chance 8 minutes before the end of the game but he fired wide from 10 meters out. Italy got the ball into the back of the net three minutes later through Nocerino but the goal was justly ruled out for offside.
The game went to the penalty shoot-out and Balotelli scored first for Italy. Then captain Steven Gerrard converted for England, Montolivo fired wide for Italy and Rooney put England 2-1 up. Then Andrea Pirlo converted with a delightful 'Panenka kick' and Ashley Young rattled the crossbar: it was 2-2 with two penalties apiece left. Nocerino stepped up for Italy and scored and then Ashley Cole fired a weak shot that Buffon held. The fate was in Diamanti's hands, the substitute stepped up and coolly converted to sent Italy in the semi finals where they will meet the invincible-looking Germany.
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