Italy send England home after dramatic penalty shoot-out

Italy defeated Engand 4-2 on penalties to advance to the semi-finals. Italy were the better side throughout the match with many chances in front of goal.

The Italian players celebrate their victory over England
The Italian players celebrate their victory over England

Italy dominated for huge swathes of the quarter-final contest, but were unable to make the breakthrough as the match finished 0-0 at the end of extra-time.

Penalties offered the Three Lions hope but, after Riccardo Montolivo fired wide, Ashley Young and Ashley Cole both failed from 12 yards to leave former West Ham forward Alessandro Diamanti as the man to step up and send Italy into the last four.

Italy were almost in front inside the opening three minutes when Daniele de Rossi's deliberately sliced volley from 30 yards crashed back off the post with Joe Hart beaten.

England responded almost immediately as Glen Johnson found himself on the edge of the six-yard box, but his shovelled attempt produced a superb reflex stop from Gianluigi Buffon.

The enigmatic Mario Balotelli had numerous chances to put Italy ahead, but was denied by a block from John Terry and then alert defending from his Manchester City team-mate Joleon Lescott.

De Rossi had a golden opportunity to put the Azzurri in front three minutes after half-time, but snatched at his shot, while Balotelli was denied by club colleague Hart and then saw an ambitious overhead kick fly over.

England retreated more and more as the game wore on and were almost punished in the first period of extra-time when Italy substitute Diamanti saw his cross come back off the post.

The Azzurri finally had the ball in the net with five minutes left of extra-time, but substitute Antonio Nocerino was fractionally offside when he stooped to head home and England held out to force a shoot-out.

This became England's latest in a long line of penalty shoot-out exits from major tournaments, following on from 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2006,

England manager Roy Hodgson told Radio Five Live: "Anyone can miss a penalty.

"They were not nonchalant, Ashley Young's smashed against the bar and Ashley Cole's was well saved by Gianluigi Buffon.

"A player's reputation should not be forged on a penalty shoot-out, their reputation should be forged on the four games and in those four games we have not lost."

He added: "We stuck to our guns right until the end and the players should be very proud of what they did.

"I have learnt a lot about the players and their determination and dedication to the task and the fact they are so keen to play for England.

"There were some heroic performances not only tonight but also in the previous three games."

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli admits Germany are "favourites" to win their semi-final clash after praising his side's "deserved" spot in the last four.

"We have played a great game," he told Rai TV.

"We deserved the win. We were really good against a big team like England. Then, at penalties, what is also needed is luck.

"This evening we played with heart, character and ideas against a difficult side. I also want to underline the spirit we showed.

"Are Germany favourites for the semi-final? Absolutely yes, but now let's celebrate this win and then we will think about the semi-final."