[ITALY-ENGLAND] Italy entered the knockout phase of Euro 2012 with a record of only two wins in seven shootouts in major competitions. But the Azzurri could
take solace in the fact that their quarterfinal opponent, England, was even worse with a 1-5 record entering Sunday's match. Like at the 1990 1998 and 2006 World Cups and 1996 and 2004 European
Championships, England's miserable form from the penalty spot continued as it fell to Italy, 4-2, in a shootout after their match ended in a 0-0 tie.
Italy had the best chances in the match, hitting the woodwork twice. Daniele De Rossi hit the post in the third minute, and Alessandro Diamanti clipped the post with a cross in overtime.
Diamanti scored the winning goal in the shootout after Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Nocerino also converted for Italy, which came back from 2-1 down after Riccardo Montolivo missed the second penalty to win.
"Penalties are a lottery but I thought we deserved victory in the end," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. "When Montolivo missed his penalty I was sad as he was one of the best players tonight. I was watching with my arm around my son and I told him he was lucky he didn't have to buy a ticket.
The key penalty kick was Pirlo's soft chip right down the middle that evened the shootout at 2-2. It brought back memories of the most famous chipped penalty of all time by Antonin Panenka that helped Czechoslovakia beat West Germany in the 1976 European Championship final.
"When Andrea Pirlo stepped up, I was very calm," said Prandelli. "He's a star and knew what he needed to do; and he did it. Around 80 percent of penalty shootouts go down to luck. Some players are used to this kind of pressure, some are just calm in these situations -- but mainly it's down to good fortune."
Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney scored for England, but Ashley Young hit the crossbar, and Ashley Cole, who scored for Chelsea in the shootout win over Bayern Munich in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final, had his attempt saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy was rewarded for its almost total domination of England. The Azzurri finished with a 35-9 edge in shots.
"I wasn't surprised by tonight," Prandelli added. "I knew we could control the game. My worry was that we were allowing England too much space on the break -- we could have been a bit cleverer in our build-up play. We tried to play football. We tried to draw England out, we tried to hit them quickly. I think if we'd scored in the 90 minutes it would have been an even better game."