Spain beat Italy on penalties to reach final

Fortaleza, June 28 (IANS) Spain earned a place in the Confederations Cup final against Brazil with a dramatic 7-6 penalty-shootout victory over Italy here.

Newly signed Manchester City winger Jesus Navas converted the winning spot-kick after Juventus winger Leonardo Bonucci sent his attempt over the bar at the Castelao Stadium Thursday night, reports Xinhua.

Both sides netted each of their first six penalty attempts after the scores were tied 0-0 at the end of extra-time. Sunday’s final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium will be the first match between Spain and Brazil since November 1999, when the sides drew 0-0 in Vigo.

“It was a really difficult match and in the end it was a lottery. They really took their penalties well and we were lucky. We are tired and have to rest now to get ourselves ready for Sunday. We know that it’s not going to be easy playing against Brazil at the Maracana in front of thousands of their fans but we are ready,” Spain captain Iker Casillas said.

As expected, Casillas began in goal for Spain after coach Vicente del Bosque rotated the keepers’ role during the group phase. And the 2010 World Cup-winning skipper made an immediate impact as Italy took the initiative. He twice saved headers from Napoli defender Christian Maggio before fisting away a powerful Daniele De Rossi shot.

Spain’s best chance of the first half came when Xavi’s delicate touch released Fernando Torres, who spun around his marker before firing his shot wide. Both sides appeared to labour in the second half as the sapping tropical heat took its toll. But it was Spain who looked most likely to score as del Bosque’s side began to find gaps in the Azzurri defence with their signature short passing game.

Andres Iniesta twice tried his luck from distance while second-half substitute Juan Mata failed to make clean contact after a Torres header. Emanuele Giaccherini then came within inches of putting his team ahead in extra time when he thumped a 25m shot against the post.

Minutes later it was Spain’s turn to be denied by the woodwork when Xavi’s swerving shot was palmed against the upright by Gianluigi Buffon.

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