[CONFEDERATIONS CUP] For organizers, the Confederations Cup has gone according to form on the field. Spain's shootout win over Italy sets up a dream final Sunday at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium: host Brazil, the two-time defending champion, against Spain, shooting for its four title in the last six years. But they'd never have imagined the problems off the field. Protests continued into a third week, and the largest demonstration is expected Sunday on the route to Maracana.
Like Brazil, Spain had cruised into the semifinals with three wins by a margin of 15-1 but found things tougher when it got to the next-to-last hurdle.
Playing against Italy, which it had beaten, 4-0, only last year to win Euro 2012, Spain could only manage a scoreless draw after 120 minutes before winning, 7-6, on penalty kicks.
Even without injured star Mario Balotelli, Italy put pressure on Spain. Emanuele Giaccherini hit the post in the 93rd minute, while Xavi's shot for Spain was deflected off the post by Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 115th.
In the shootout, both teams went 6-for-6 before Italy defender Leonardo Bonuccimissed over the bar, and Jesus Navas scored the winner for Spain.
“They put a system in place that really complicated things for us,” said Spain goalie Iker Casillas. “Italy was well organized, with two fullbacks who attack a lot, get forward and come into the center. I’m convinced that Brazil won’t play like that. The whole world wanted to see a Brazil-Spain final, and in the end the two teams who are there are the ones who deserve it. It’s basically a curtain-raiser for the World Cup, and everyone who loves soccer will agree that it should be a great match.”
Italy had the majority of the support of the more than 56,000 fans on hand for the semifinal at Fortaleza's Estadio Castelao.
"We played a great match,'' Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "We created and we conceded but we were always in the match. They're still ahead of us but we're improving. In these conditions, between absences and fatigue, it's nearly impossible to go all the way, but the guys really moved me."
July 27 in Fortaleza
Spain 0 Italy 0 (Spain wins 7-6 on penalties).
Spain --Casillas: Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Jordi Alba; Busquets; Pedro (Mata 79), Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva (Navas, 52); Fernando Torres (Javi Martinez 94).
Italy --Buffon; Barzagli (Montolivo, 46), Bonucci, Chiellini; Maggio, Pirlo, De Rossi, Giaccherini; Marchisio (Aquilani, 79), Candreva; Gilardino (Giovinco, 91).
Referee:Howard Webb (England).