Italy through to Euro 2012 semis

Italy were straight out the blocks in this quarter-final and after just four minutes Daniele de Rossi’s lovely sliced effort came back off the post with Joe Hart stranded.

However, this fast start sparked England into life and they had a great chance of their own when James Milner crossed into Glen Johnson who forced a brilliant reflex save from Gianluigi Buffon in Italy’s goal.

From that point, both sides continued to exchange chances: the enigmatic Mario Balotelli sprung the offside trap twice and after Terry scrambled to clear the first opportunity, the Italian striker hit straight at Hart.

At the other end, England had their best chance after 32 minutes when a slick one-two between Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney saw the former fire wide when he really should have hit the target.

By far the clearest opportunity came to Balotelli however when a deep cross from Andrea Pirlo was headed back across goal by Antonio Cassano and from just four yards out, the Italy number nine managed to fire over.

The second half of this Euro 2012 quarter-final started brightly but England started to tire and Italy began to dictate the game. Cesare Prandelli’s men had three excellent chances to take the lead and somehow, De Rossi managed to shin the ball wide when England failed to clear their lines following a corner.

Balotelli and Antonio Nocerino also went close while Ashley Young had England’s best effort but his shot from just outside the six yard box was deflected wide. All the time, Andrea Pirlo was commanding the match but with neither side able to find the net, extra time duly came.

In the first added period, Italy were restricted to long range efforts but in the second period they did find the net only for Nocerino’s header to be ruled out as he had strayed offside.

The inevitable penalties the came and it was Riccardo Montolivo who blinked first as he dragged his effort wide after Balotelli and Steven Gerrard had found the net. Rooney converted his spot kick before Andrea Pirlo proved why he is one of the most composed players in world football with his chipped effort.

Ashley Young then lost his nerve as his hammered effort rebounded back off the bar before his namesake Ashley Cole’s tame effort was saved by Buffon. It was then left to former West Ham striker Alessandro Diamanti to calmly slot home and send Italy through to face Germany in the semi-finals.

Overall, few could deny that Italy had deserved to advance with England chasing shadows for long parts of the game but yet another penalties defeat will be tough for English fans to bare.