(WFI) Jesus Navas’ spot-kick in the seventh round of a penalty shoot-out saw Spain beat Italy 7-6 to book their place in the Confederations Cup final.
The match had ended scoreless to set up the nail-biting finish. Spain face Brazil in Sunday’s final.
Italy dominated much of the first half, creating four glorious chances on goal. Spain’s keeper Iker Casillas performed heroics on multiple occasions to deny the Italians. The Azzurri’s excellent defensive shape kept Spain at bay for the opening 45 minutes.
Spain enjoyed more possession after the break. Their beautiful passing sequences and movement were showcased, but the World Cup champions were unable to break through the Italian defencee to score the decisive goal.
The introduction of Navas was very effective, as his pace and skill led to a number of decent chances.
After a scoreless 90 minutes and tired legs becoming a factor, the first extra-time period for both sides was lethargic. Italy’s best chance came in the 93rd minute when Emanuele Giaccherini’s left footed strike hit the post.
The second extra-time period was dominated by La Furia Roja.
With Italy tiring, the attacking trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Juan Mata found space and linked up well. Xavi was unlucky not to give Spain the lead in the 115th minute, as his blast was tipped off the post by Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon.
The game went to penalties. Incredibly, the first six players from each side converted from the spot.
But Italy’s hearts sank when Leonardo Bonucci blazed his shot over the goal. And up stepped Navas, Manchester City’s newest signing, to calmly slot home his penalty to give Spain a dramatic victory.
Man of the match was Navas. The tricky right winger came on as a substitute and his presence was immediately felt. He worked tirelessly up and down the right side, creating dangerous scoring opportunities with his crosses. His ability to get past players put Italy on the back foot and he was unlucky not to get a goal in extra-time.
Italy’s top performer was right wingback Christian Maggio. He was in fine form from the opening whistle, attacking at will from a deep position. His ability to get forward hindered Jordi Alba from joining Spain’s attacks as he has done throughout the tournament. Maggio should have added his name to the scoresheet in the first half, but he was brilliantly denied by Casillas.
A crowd of 56,083 was dazzled at Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza; spectators witnessed the match of the tournament.
Two of the world’s best goalkeepers were on show. Italy’s Buffon and Spain’s Casillas have a combined 277 international appearances.
With the victory over Italy, Spain extended their world-record winning streak in competitive fixtures to 29.
Spain can add their first Confederations Cup title to their World Cup and Euro 2012 trophies with a win over Brazil at Rio’s Maracana on Sunday.
By INSIDER’s Jeff Scannella
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