Japan had 55% possession to Italy’s 45% (Getty)

(WFI)Sebastian Giovinco’s first international goal proved to be decisive in one of the best matches in Confederations Cup history as Italy topped Japan 4-3.

Japan followed up their opening round loss to Brazil in some style, opening the scoring in the 22nd minute. A controversial decision by Argentine referee Diego Abal granted the Samurais a penalty kick. Italian left-back Mattia De Sciglio left his back pass short and Buffon was called for a foul on the Japanese striker when he looked to have cleanly won the ball.

Keisuke Honda converted the spot kick to put Japan 1-0 up. In the 33rd minute, they added a second through a smart left- footed volley by Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa.

But Italy finished the half on a high note as a thumping header from a corner kick by midfielder Daniele De Rossi cut the Japanese.

After the break, an own goal by Japan’s Atsuto Uchida levelled the match 2-2.

Two minutes later Italy struck again, this time from the penalty spot as Mario Balotelli calmly slotted home after a Giovinco shot hit the hand of Japanese defender Makato Hasabe.

Japan then enjoyed a 20-minute spell of dominance and were rewarded in the 68th minute when Shinji Okazaki headed home from a Yasuhito Endo free-kick.

Italy, however, had the last say as Giovinco tapped in from close range in the 86th minute capping the best match of the tournament thus far.

Cesare Prandelli’s team advance to the semi-final stage.

Star Players

Man of the match for Italy was Giovinco. His deflected shot led to Italy’s penalty and his first goal at senior level made it a memorable night for him. When he came on for Alberto Aquilani in the first half, his trickery and pace proved difficult for Japan to handle.

For Japan, Kagawa was the key player. His energy instilled a belief in the Japanese side from the opening whistle. His clever play, vision, and instinctive finishing set him apart. The 23-year-old put in a stellar performance.

Attendance

40,489 fans were at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife to witness this thriller.

Top Stats

Japan had 17 shots and Italy 12

Japan’s coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, prepared his Japanese squad to match the slower paced style of the Italians. A native of the northern Italian town of Meldola, Zaccheroni coach at AC Milan, Lazio, and Inter Milan before taking the reigns of the Japanese squad in 2010.

By INSIDER’s Jeff Scannella

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