Italy finished the Confederations Cup on a high after defeating Uruguay in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the third place playoff. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was Italy’s hero with three crucial penalty saves after the match had ended 2-2 after extra-time.
Goals from Davide Astori and Allessandro Diamanti were cancelled out by two goals from Edinson Cavani whilst Riccardo Montolivo was red-carded in the extra period of play. It was no more than the Italians deserved after their heart-breaking defeat in the semi-finals against Spain.
Both sides played with a degree of freedom to provide an entertaining game. By the time Montolivo was sent off, both sides had seemingly accepted that a penalty shoot-out was on the cards. Buffon then saved from Forlan, Caceres and Gargano to clinch victory.
Italy?s goalless draw with Spain indicates that they are still making good progress towards next year?s World Cup finals. They had been brushed aside by their opponents with embarrassing ease in the final of the European Championships and were determined to erase that memory with a more gutsy display in Fortaleza.
Over the course of the game it was clear that the Italians were the better side but they could not find a way through the Spanish defence. Italy had the advantage of going first in the penalty shoot-out but the Spaniard continued to level the scores right through to 6-6 when Leonardo Bonucci blazed high and wide of goal. It was left to Navas to end Italian hopes when he coolly converted the decisive penalty.
The game may ultimately have ended in defeat and further disappointment but the Italians had done enough to show that they are a better side than they showed in the European final. They have closed the gap between themselves and Spain and their current odds of 20-1 for the World Cup do not do them justice.
Italy may have struggled through the earlier stages of the tournament but were more impressive in their closing two matches and they will be optimistic for the future. They matched eventual tournament winners Brazil for most of the first half in their final group game before eventually going down 4-2.
They showed plenty of character in that game and were within a whisker of levelling the match at 3-3 when Maggio headed against the bar. They were unable to complete the comeback but will have learned plenty from the experience of playing the World Cup favourites.