Gigi Buffon was the shoot-out hero as Italy beat Uruguay on penalties to clinch third place in the Confederations Cup after a 2-2 draw.
Edinson Cavani twice cancelled out an Azzurri lead and Riccardo Montolivo saw red in extra time in stifling heat in Salvador de Bahia.
Cesare Prandelli had to completely revamp his side for the Confederations Cup third place play-off, as Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo, Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli and Claudio Marchisio were all injured. Daniele De Rossi, Alberto Gilardino and Giorgio Chiellini all passed late fitness tests, while Stephan El Shaarawy, Alessandro Diamanti and Davide Astori were given rare starts in the stifling 13.00 local time heat. Uruguay played their semi-final with Brazil a day earlier than Italy and didn’t go to 120 minutes, so were able to use much the same side including Serie A faces Edinson Cavani, Martin Caceres, Walter Gargano and Arevalo Rios.
Luis Suarez turned Chiellini at the halfway line and burst forward, but Diego Forlan’s assist for Cavani was misplaced. Chiellini almost scored at the other end with a glancing header just wide from Diamanti’s free kick.
Diego Forlan’s low set piece through the wall was well smothered and De Sciglio pulled back for Antonio Candreva to force a Fernando Muslera save. Lazio figure Candreva also blasted over from distance.
Italy took the lead in bizarre circumstances, as Diamanti curled an audacious free kick almost from the right corner flag that thumped the far post, ricocheted off the back of Muslera’s head and Astori dived to toe-poke it over the line. It was the Cagliari defender’s first international goal, as initially FIFA awarded it to Diamanti, then saw on using the new goalline technology that part of the ball had not entirely crossed over before Astori got there.
El Shaarawy’s confidence was not helped by a poor first touch that wasted a good opportunity. At the other end, Suarez forced Buffon into a save under the bar from a tight angle.
Cavani got the ball in the net with his header from a free kick, but was flagged offside. Moments later El Shaarawy’s screamer stung Muslera’s palms, then Diamanti’s flick was just beyond Gilardino from 10 yards.
Buffon turned a Maxi Pereira effort round the base of the near post and smothered a Forlan strike. El Shaarawy got on the end of a Diamanti through ball and had poked it past Muslera, but a defender rushed back to clear in front of the open goal.
The referee waved away penalty appeals for a Chiellini handling offence on 40 minutes, as he kicked it on to his own elbow after the ball took a strange bounce. A similar incident had seen a penalty awarded for Italy against Japan.
Palermo midfielder Arevalo Rios hit a weak half-volley into Buffon’s arms, but the Azzurri paid for an error in midfield. Astori and Christian Maggio gave the ball away to spark a Walter Gargano counter and Cavani side-footed the angled drive across Buffon into the far bottom corner.
Fatigue was clearly setting in, as Italy repeatedly gave away possession. Arevalo Rios intercepted De Rossi’s pass for Montolivo for another counter and Buffon performed an incredible double save on Forlan, one with his hand and the follow-up with an outstretched foot.
Lazio midfielder Alvaro Gonzalez hit a rocket that skimmed the crossbar and Gargano brought down El Shaarawy as he was pulling the trigger in the D. Diamanti stepped up and there were no doubts over this goal, as the Bologna star curled a perfect free kick over the wall into the near top corner.
The lead lasted just five minutes, as Napoli forward Cavani placed another fine free kick over the wall and under the bar. It was fairly central, so Buffon was again unsighted and slow to reach it. Curiously, before this match Cavani had not scored past Buffon since 2009 for Palermo.
Maggio’s glancing header was just wide from a corner and a Candreva lob was not far over the bar. Alberto Aquilani had options on the counter, but fired straight at Muslera from distance.
Astori went down with cramp in the final minute and Candreva turned a free kick off target, as Italy were forced to extra time yet again just three days after their marathon with Spain.
Uruguay had more penalty appeals for his tussle with Diego Godin on a corner. Suarez also tried to earn a spot-kick, but let himself fall when shoulder-to-shoulder with Chiellini. Bonucci was crucial in closing down Cavani on the penalty spot.
Candreva hit a long-range strike just wide, but Montolivo received a harsh second yellow card for attempting to trip Suarez and left Italy with 10 men for the final 11 minutes. It was a particular blow as the Milan midfielder would’ve been one of the penalty takers in the shoot-out.
A Suarez snapshot sailed over the bar, as did Cavani’s attempt from the edge of the box as extra time crawled towards penalties. Buffon beat away a Gargano screamer and Cavani’s follow-up was across the face of goal.
Ex-Inter flop Forlan was up first and his fairly central penalty was well saved by Buffon, while Aquilani converted confidently.
Cavani, El Shaarawy and Suarez scored, but De Sciglio’s spot-kick was parried by Muslera to even out the scores.
Martin Caceres tried to beat his Juventus teammate, but Buffon smothered it on the line. Giaccherini had refused to take one against Spain, but stepped up and converted here.
Buffon performed his third save of the shoot-out on Gargano, ensuring Italy take third place in the Confederations Cup.
Uruguay 2-2 Italy aet (2-3 on penalties)
Scorers: Astori 24 (I), Cavani 58, 78 (U), Diamanti 73 (I)
Penalties: Forlan (saved), Aquilani (goal), Cavani (goal), El Shaarawy (goal), Suarez (goal), De Sciglio (saved), Caceres (saved), Giaccherini (goal), Gargano (saved)
Uruguay: Muslera; Caceres, Godin, Lugano, Maxi Pereira (Alvaro Pereira 81); Cristian Rodriguez (Gonzalez 56), Gargano, Arevalo Rios (Perez 107); Forlan; Suarez, Cavani
Italy: Buffon; Maggio, Chiellini, Astori (Bonucci 96), De Sciglio; Candreva, De Rossi (Aquilani 70), Montolivo; Diamanti (Giaccherini 82); El Shaarawy, Gilardino
Ref: Haimoudi (ALG)
Sent off: Montolivo 109 (I)
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