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Italy reach semi-finals after penalty kicks drama

By Paul Gittings, CNN
June 25, 2012 -- Updated 0050 GMT (0850 HKT)
Italy's players celebrate their penalty shootout victory over England in their Euro 2012 quarterfinal in Kiev.
Italy's players celebrate their penalty shootout victory over England in their Euro 2012 quarterfinal in Kiev.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Italy beat England in a penalty shootout to reach Euro 2012 semifinals
  • Match ended 0-0 after regulation and extra time
  • Italy wasted a string of chances to seal victory
  • Italy to play Germany in Warsaw on Thursday in last four

(CNN) -- Italy beat England 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the semifinals of Euro 2012 after their match in Kiev Sunday ended goalless following extra time.

Alessandro Diamanti converted the deciding penalty to give Italy a deserved victory after they had dominated for prolonged periods.

They will play Germany for a place in the final in Warsaw Thursday. Portugal play defending champions Spain in the first semifinal in Donetsk Wednesday.

The Italians were first to miss in the shootout when Riccardo Montolivo shot wide, but England's delight was short-lived when Ashley Young's well-struck spot-kick rattled the crossbar.

Man of the match Andrea Pirlo then pulled Italy level at 2-2 with an impudent chip over Joe Hart, before Ashley Cole saw his effort saved by Gianluigi Buffon.

Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere. Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere.
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Diamanti supplied the winning touch, prompting his teammates to charge forward in celebration as England were once again left to rue their failure to win a penalty shootout at a major competition.

"We've gone out without being beaten with our heads held high and making the country proud," a defiant England manager Roy Hodgson told reporters after their defeat.

Cesare Prandelli's Italy had the better of the opening exchanges in regulation time, with Daniele de Rossi almost giving the Azzurri the lead after two minutes when his swerving volley hit the woodwork.

England also went close when Buffon was forced to claw away a Glen Johnson effort.

Manchester City's mercurial talent Mario Balotelli was a constant threat to England and saw a close range effort blocked by Hart, before Wayne Rooney set up his Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck, only to see him to fire over from a good position.

Italy ended the half the stronger team -- Antonio Cassano had a snap shot parried by Hart, while Balotelli ballooned over from close range.

The pattern continued after the break with de Rossi guilty of a bad miss after Hart could only push out a Cassano corner.

Balotelli, who might by that point have scored a hat-trick, was again frustrated with a volleyed effort, which Hart saved with his legs -- Montolivo then shot over the bar from the rebound.

There was further frustration in the closing moments when Pirlo found space in the England box, but his goal-bound volley was blocked by Johnson.

And into injury time, substitute Andy Carroll headed back for Rooney to scissor kick over in a rare England attack.

In extra time, Diamanti saw his intended cross deceive Hart and hit the outside of the post, as the Italians continued to dominate possession.

Italy thought they had won it in the dying minutes of the second period when Antonio Nocerino headed in Diamanti's dangerous cross, but he was ruled to be offside.

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