FIFA Confederations Cup: Uruguay 2 Italy 2 (2-3 pen)
By Football News
Italy claimed third place in the FIFA Confederations Cup with a win on penalties against Uruguay at the Arena Fonte Nova on Sunday.
Italy went ahead through Davide Astori midway through the first half before Edinson Cavani grabbed the first of his brace shortly after the break.
However, two beatifully crafted free-kicks, first from Alessandro Diamanti and then courtesy of Cavani, ensured that the match went to penalties, with Gianluigi Buffon saving three to help the Italians to third place.
For Italy, Andrea Pirlo and Andrea Barzagli missed out due to injury, while Stephan El Shaaraway and Diamanti were chosen to join Alberto Gilardino in a front three.
Uruguay kept faith with the formidable striking trio of Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Cavani as they looked to break down an Italian defence that had become the first to shut out Spain in 16 games during the sem-final.
Cesare Prandelli's side made the stronger start to the game, with Antonio Candreva involved in two good chances early on.
The Euro 2012 finalists then took the lead after 23 minutes through Astori, following a bizarre series of events when a Diamanti free kick hit the crossbar and cannoned back off Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal.
The ball bounced along the line and into the path of Astori, who prodded it over the line to put the Italians ahead.
Goalline technology was used to determine whether or not the ball had crossed the line before Astori made contact - the first time the new system has been called into action in a major tournament.
Uruguay looked to bounce back straight away as Suarez struck a shot into the side netting four minutes later, before Cavani had the ball in the net, only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
Despite the pressure, Italy's defence stood firm to ensure that they went in at the break a goal to the good.
The scores were level 13 minutes into the second half, when Walter Gargano drove into the Italy half and played in Cavani, with the Napoli forward keeping his composure to sidefoot neatly past Buffon.
Forlan should have put his side ahead after 67 minutes when his deflected shot sat up nicely for a second attempt. However, Buffon was equal to it and ensured the score remained level.
However, Diamanti's left foot again proved effective for the Italians after 73 minutes. Not content with having a big say in his side's opener, he curled a superb free-kick past the helpless Muslera.
Napoli man Cavani, not to be outdone, then showed exactly why the likes of Chelsea are keen on securing his signature with a free-kick of equal quality. The forward grabbed his second of the match, beating Buffon with a beautifully measured effort from just outside the box to set up a grandstand finish with 12 minutes to go.
With the game set to go into extra time, Italy were awarded a free-kick in the 91st minute but Candreva's delivery was disappointing and drifted harmlessly wide, ensuring the sides would play an extra 30 minutes.
Italy enjoyed much of the possession as the first half extra time got under way, with both sides looking weary as they struggled to fashion opportunities.
Cavani came within sight of a one-on-one with Buffon at the end of the first period, before the second got under way with an early blow for Italy who lost midfielder Riccardo Montolivo to a second yellow card.
Suarez hit a fierce shot over the crossbar in the 113th minute as Uruguay piled on the pressure before Cavani flashed an effort wide a minute later.
Just a minute from time, the pair each had another great opportunity to seal the game but Suarez saw his effort saved while Cavani was ruled offside, meaning that penalties decided who would finish in third place.
Forlan got his side off to the worst possible start in the shootout, seeing his effort saved by Buffon, before Alberto Aquilani put Italy ahead. Cavani then made it one each with a cool sidefoot past the goalkeeper with El Shaaraway sending Muslera the wrong way to keep Italy ahead.
Suarez dispatched his spot-kick before Mattia De Sciglio's was saved to level matters. There was to be another twist ahead as Martin Caceres' penalty was saved before Emanuele Giaccherini scored. Gargano then saw his strike saved by Buffon to ensure Italy took the honours.