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More penalty heartache for England as Italy claim semi-final spot

UK Sport | Published:

Roy Hodgson’s side crashed out of Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals following a shoot-out.

England were due to host Italy at Wembley on Friday before their Euro 2020 warm-up was cancelled because of coronavirus.

Instead, the PA news agency revisits the Three Lions’ Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat to the Azzurri.

England’s penalty shoot-out misery continued in Kiev tonight as they crashed out of Euro 2012.

After Mario Balotelli’s talk of Peter Pan, the semi-finals of a major tournament are becoming the equivalent of Never Never Land for the Three Lions.

Six times now they have lost in such fashion, the last four at this stage of the competition.

Classic encounters between England and Italy
England’s Wayne Rooney reacts to defeat to Italy in Kiev (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Both men needed consoling as Italy began their celebrations as, outplayed for long periods of an absorbing game, all England’s defensive effort proved in vain.

It means Italy march onto Thursday’s semi-final with Germany in Warsaw and leaves Roy Hodgson to pick the bones from an otherwise impressive tournament in time for next autumn’s World Cup qualifiers.

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Before the drama, all those pre-match predictions of a tight, cagey affair had been blown to bits inside the opening five minutes.

Soccer – UEFA Euro 2012 – Quarter Final – England v Italy – Olympic Stadium
England goalkeeper Joe Hart is beaten in the shoot-out (Anthony Devlin/PA)

From 25 yards, De Rossi let fly with a spectacular first-time volley, which curved away from Joe Hart’s despairing dive, only to crash back off the post.

Starved of possession in those early stages, England eventually countered through Glen Johnson.

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The Liverpool defender continued his run after laying a pass off to Young and was picked out inside the box by James Milner.

Had the chance fallen to a striker, England surely would have scored.

As it was, Johnson took vital seconds manoeuvring the ball into a position from which he could shoot, and when he did, Gianluigi Buffon stood firm to make an excellent one-handed save.

They were the most notable efforts of a surprisingly open start, during which Wayne Rooney sent a diving header over and Andrea Pirlo released Balotelli, only for John Terry to rescue the situation with a vital tackle.

No one could help when Riccardo Montolivo’s disguised pass looped over the England defence and dropped invitingly for Balotelli, whose volley went straight to Hart.

At the other end, Danny Welbeck’s precise effort sailed over after he had run onto Rooney’s return pass.

It was spellbinding stuff, with Italy having the edge in craft and guile, whilst also looking vulnerable when England attacked at pace.

Balotelli’s notoriously fragile temperament resulted in him lashing out at a post after spurning another opportunity, which Pirlo and Antonio Cassano combined to provide.

He ended the half driving over from long range, extending a contribution substantially more effective than Rooney, whose failure to pick out a team-mate with a cross under no pressure was symptomatic of a player struggling to find his form.

Classic encounters between England and Italy
Ashley Cole walks away after missing his penalty (Anthony Devlin/PA)

It was the start of an onslaught that had England teetering on the brink as Pirlo took command in imperious fashion.

At 33, the midfielder now assumes the Paul Scholes role for his country, dropping deep and dictating the tempo, and for a while, England were powerless to stop him.

Terry denied Balotelli at the far post with a thunderous clearing header, then Hart repelled De Rossi’s long-range effort and also Balotelli’s follow-up. Montolivo got to the loose ball first but his shot sailed over.

Hodgson had seen enough and after Balotelli’s overhead kick had gone over, Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott were introduced.

With Italy making changes as well, the game lost its shape, so, as had been imagined, extra-time was required.

Soccer – UEFA Euro 2012 – Quarter Final – England v Italy – Olympic Stadium
England boss Roy Hodgson consoles Ashley Young and Cole after defeat (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Fortunately, what was intended as a cross by former West Ham man Alessandro Diamanti clipped the far post after Hart reacted too late to the danger it was posing.

Antonio Nocerino thought he had won it six minutes from the end but his header was correctly ruled out for offside. It merely delayed the inevitable.

That England led after the first two rounds of penalties to give hope, only made defeat all the more crushing as Diamanti delivered the final blow.

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