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Italy win on penalties: Anyone for tennis ?




(Italy win 4-2 on penalties)


England suffered penalty agony once more as Italy won a shoot-out after the Euro 2012 quarter-final finished goalless in Kiev.

Italy were vastly superior to England over the course of 120 minutes - but the resilience and organisation that have swiftly become the trademark under new manager Roy Hodgson took an enthralling game to penalties.

And, as on five of the previous six occasions England have entered this sudden-death environment, they were left heartbroken, with Italy confirming a semi-final meeting with Germany in Warsaw on Thursday.

England captain Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney were successful from the spot, but Ashley Young struck the bar and Ashley Cole's effort was saved by Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon.


Mario Balotelli scored Italy's first spot-kick but Riccardo Montolivo's miss gave England hope that was cruelly snatched away as Andrea Pirlo audaciously chipped in his spot-kick and Antonio Nocerino coolly slotted home before former West Ham midfielder Alessandro Diamanti scored the decisive penalty.

England cannot complain that the better team did not emerge as winners - but even in the face of a constant wave of Italian attacks Hodgson's men still showed enough heart and durability to make their Euro 2012 exit with pride.

As Italy subjected them to what was almost torture by possession, England's back four and goalkeeper Joe Hart responded magnificently by erecting a wall of defiance, with John Terry outstanding.

England will head for home on Monday after a campaign they can reflect on with a measure of satisfaction despite the disappointment. Hodgson - at short notice - marshalled his forces effectively but the gulf in class with Italy was clear and his team looked jaded long before the end.

Hodgson will now take stock of events in Ukraine, where England drew with France and won against Sweden and Ukraine to top Group D, as he plots the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.


England's penalty record stands at six defeats and one win from seven shoot-outs at major tournaments.

They lost to Germany in 1990 and 1996, to Argentina in 1998, to Portugal in 2004 and 2006 and to Italy in 2012.

They beat Spain in 1996.

From 35 shoot-out penalties taken they have scored 23.



Hodgson picked England's first unchanged team since the miserable last-16 encounter with Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - a show of faith in the side that beat Ukraine in Donetsk.

England were almost given the worst possible start when, after a prolonged period of possession, De Rossi's swerving left-foot volley hit the post with Hart stretching in vain to make contact.

If this was an ominous start for England, they responded with an opportunity of their own when Glen Johnson found space in the area but could not get sufficient power in his shot and Buffon was able to claw the ball away.

England's opening spell had been their best of Euro 2012. It was almost capped with a goal in the 13th minute when the dangerous Johnson crossed for Rooney but he could only glance a header over the top.

Balotelli had been his usual combination of threat mixed with moments of infuriating slackness. He was slow to react to the peerless Pirlo's pass and allowed Terry to make a fine recovering tackle, then forced his Manchester City team-mate Hart into a save from a low effort.

England had lost the measure of control they had exerted for a spell, but there was still much to encourage Hodgson, particularly when Rooney opened up Italy's defence and Danny Welbeck should have done better than sidefoot wide from the edge of the area.

Balotelli was again involved as he closed in on Antonio Cassano's header six yards out but was left hacking at the post in frustration as Terry and Joleon Lescott combined to clear.

Italy continued to control possession after the break and England were fortunate to survive a chaotic incident in which Hart saved from De Rossi and Balotelli before Montolivo diverted the rebound over the bar.

Hodgson knew he needed to shift the momentum away from Italy and he chose to try to do it with a double substitution on the hour, replacing Welbeck and James Milner with Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott.

Both were involved as England managed to unsettle Italy, only for Young's close-range effort to be deflected following muscular work from Carroll.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli introduced Diamanti in an attempt to pierce England's stubborn resistance and he swiftly forced Hart into a smart save.

The game continued to absorb into the closing seconds of normal time as Johnson produced a crucial block to stop Italian substitute Nocerino, while Rooney almost stole the win for England with an overhead kick at the other end.

England made a quick change in extra time as Jordan Henderson replaced Scott Parker but Italy still held the initiative, with Diamanti's attempted cross bouncing of the upright to safety.

Nocerino then had the ball in the net with a header as penalties loomed, but it was rightly ruled out for offside.

So it went to penalties - and a familiar tale of woe as England were again the victims of this cruellest form of defeat.

ENGLAND: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner (Walcott 61), Gerrard, Parker (Henderson 94), Young, Rooney, Welbeck (Carroll 60).

ITALY: Buffon, Abate (Maggio 90), Barzagli, Bonucci, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Marchisio, De Rossi (Nocerino 80), Montolivo, Balotelli, Cassano (Diamanti 78).

Booked: Barzagli, Maggio.

Att: 56,500

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal).



Spain waltzed past a feeble France side in Donetsk to set up a Euro 2012 semi-final meeting with Portugal.

Xabi Alonso, on his 100th appearance for his country, headed in a Jordi Alba cross after 20 minutes.

France struggled to make a mark and only conjured a rare threat when right-back Mathieu Debuchy headed a Franck Ribery cross over.

Spain comfortably saw out a one-sided game and sealed the win with a 91st-minute Alonso penalty.

Much had been expected of a game between two of Europe's heavyweights, but it proved a mismatch as Spain easily dispatched a France side lacking intensity and invention.

Victory gave Spain their first win over France in a competitive game and kept them on course for a third successive tournament triumph to follow Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

Les Bleus had looked distinctly unconvincing in their final group match against Sweden in a defeat that had caused unrest in their camp, but this was supposed to be a new chapter. Instead, it was the same old story as they fielded a defensive line-up and conceded ground and possession to their opponents.

For their part, Spain had chosen not to play a recognised striker, replacing forward Fernando Torres with midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who had a strong early claim for a penalty.

The Barcelona man, running on to a lofted Alonso pass, looked set to run through on goal before he was brought down by a clumsy Gael Clichy challenge but referee Nicola Rizzoli waved away the appeals.


Spain, though, quickly went up a gear, Iniesta guiding a pass wide to overlapping left-back Jordi Alba who left Debuchy trailing before crossing to the far post where Alonso headed back across the keeper and into the net.

The forward forays of Alba and right-back Alvaro Arbeloa were causing France problems, while Andres Iniesta and Xavi's pressing and probing did likewise from the the centre of midfield.

For the French, midfielder Yohan Cabaye had a well struck free-kick tipped over by Iker Casillas but a side clearly set up to catch Spain on the counter-attack mustered precious few opportunities to do so.

Laurent Blanc's men improved marginally in the second half and Debuchy headed over a rare chance, but Spain's ability to hold possession with their metronomic passing style repeatedly drew the sting from France's attacks.

France did not look like they had either the belief or ability to equalise, a malaise epitomised by disappointing striker Karim Benzema, whose Euro 2012 campaign ended without his managing a goal.


As the game went into injury time, Anthony Reveillere brought down Spain substitute Pedro to concede a penalty that Alonso drove in to complete France's miserable evening.

It was all too much for Samir Nasri, Manchester City's title-winning midfielder who came on in the second half but to little effect.

When asked for a comment on the French quarter-final exit by French TV reporters, Nasri ranted: 'You're always looking for stories - go fuck yourself, you sons of bitches.'

He was doubtless frustrated that Spain did not need to be at their best to overcome a disappointingly negative France team in Donetsk and are now just 180 minutes away from becoming the first nation in history to win three major international tournaments in a row.

SPAIN: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets,Alonso,Silva (Pedro 65), Fabregas (Torres 67), Iniesta (Santi Cazorla 84).

Booked: Sergio Ramos.


Goals: Alonso 19,90 pen.

FRANCE: Lloris, Reveillere, Rami, Koscielny, Clichy, M'Vila (Giroud 79),Debuchy (Menez 64), Cabaye,Malouda (Nasri 64), Ribery, Benzema.

Booked: Cabaye,Menez.

Att: 46,145

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).








Germany produced a dominant display to sweep past a limited Greece side and set up a possible Euro 2012 semi-final with England.

Germany wasted a host of early chances before captain Philipp Lahm fired them ahead in spectacular fashion.

Greece threatened a scare when Celtic striker Georgios Samaras levelled on the counter-attack, but Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klose soon responded.

Marco Reus thumped home a fourth before Dimitris Salpingidis netted a penalty.

Germany will now take on England or Italy in the last four in Warsaw next Thursday.


Who is Marco Reus?

Born in Dortmund in May 1989

Scored 21 goals in 37 games for Borussia Monchengladbach last season

Earned a £15m move to hometown club Borussia Dortmund

Scored his second international goal against Greece

German coach Joachim Loew raised eyebrows before kick-off with his decision to rest his first-choice strike trio of Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski.

But his decision was vindicated as young replacements Reus and Andre Schurrle turned in energetic performances either side of the vastly experienced Klose, who saw an early strike ruled out for offside.

Reus in particular could have had a couple of goals in a first 45 minutes completely controlled by Loew's side, with the coach growing visibly frustrated as the half wore on and his team wasted a flurry of openings.


The breakthrough came just before the break when Bayern Munich full-back Lahm cut inside from his station on the left and thrashed a right-footed shot from 20 yards which bent wickedly past goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis and into the corner.

Greece coach Fernando Santos made two changes at the break as he attempted to offer some sort of attacking outlet and, despite the opening 10 minutes continuing the pattern of German ascendancy, Samaras then struck against the run of play.


Replacement Giorgos Fotakis released Salpingidis down the right, and he was able to pick out Samaras at the back post to slide in from close range.


If it was an examination of this Germany side's credentials, it was one they passed with ease as they responded by scoring three goals in 13 minutes.


First Khedira - playing in a far more advanced role than the one he fills for Real Madrid - showed fine technique to strike a volley into the roof of the net, before Klose took advantage of some poor goalkeeping by Sifakis to nod in a simple header from a free-kick.


It was Klose's 64th international goal and his 17th in a major tournament.


Reus then grabbed the goal his performance deserved with an emphatic finish off the underside of the crossbar after Sifakis had smothered Klose's shot.




Salpingidis then reduced the deficit from a penalty awarded for handball against Jerome Boateng.

It was a performance by Germany that made pre-match talk of Loew taking a gamble with his team selection look rather fanciful. And for semi-final opponents Italy or England, there is also the knowledge that the trio of Podolski, Gomez and Mueller - with 79 international goals between them - will now be desperate to earn back their places in the starting XI.

GERMANY: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Reus (Gotze 80), Ozil, Schurrle (Muller 67), Klose (Gomez 79).

Goals: Lahm 39, Khedira 61, Klose 68, Reus 74.

GREECE: Sifakis, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Tzavelas (Fotakis 46), Makos (Liberopoulos 71), Maniatis, Ninis (Gekas 46), Katsouranis, Samaras, Salpingidis.

Booked: Samaras,Papastathopoulos.

Goals: Samaras 55, Salpingidis 89 pen.

Att: 43,000

Ref: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).








Cristiano Ronaldo capped a magnificent display with the match-winning goal as Portugal powered past Czech Republic and into the semi-finals of Euro 2012.

Ronaldo, who scored twice against the Netherlands, hit the woodwork in each half with fine strikes.


And he finally found the net with 12 minutes remaining, thumping a header into the ground and beyond Petr Cech.

Czech Republic failed to muster a shot on target as they rarely threatened throughout a tense evening.

Portugal will now face Spain or France for a place in the final, and with surely Europe's best player beginning to show his very best form, they could take some stopping.

The Real Madrid forward was instrumental in guiding Portugal through Group B, putting a sloppy display against Denmark behind him to score both goals against the Netherlands on Sunday.

And after a slow start to this quarter-final in Warsaw, the world's most expensive player grew in stature to dominate the action in impressive fashion.


Czech Republic enjoyed a strong opening 15 minutes, with right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie initially effective in a man-marking role on Ronaldo, but once the former Manchester United man threw off his shackles and began to roam in a free role he lit up proceedings.

He had already been harshly penalised by referee Howard Webb when running through the middle of the defence before striking the post after a moment of genius.

Ronaldo controlled Raul Meireles's long pass on his chest, turned defender Michal Kadlec effortlessly and beat Cech with a shot that thundered against the base of the post and rebounded to safety.

He hit the post again - the fourth time in four games he had struck the woodwork - after the break with a trademark dipping free-kick from 30 yards as Paulo Bento's side mounted a siege on Cech's goal.

Substitute Hugo Almeida then saw a header correctly ruled out for offside and also wasted two further efforts before the breakthrough came - inevitably - from Ronaldo.

The impressive Joao Moutinho broke from midfield down the right before standing up a cross to the back post.


Ronaldo met the cross with a fierce header which bounced down and then into the roof of the net for his third goal of the tournament.

It was his 66th goal for club and country in an incredible season.

Michal Bilek's Czech side had shrugged off a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Russia in their opener to reach the last eight, but, again shorn of injured captain Tomas Rosicky, they looked limited going forward and never tested Rui Patricio in the Portuguese net on their way to a limp exit.

In contrast, Portugal will move on confident of reaching a second European Championship final in three tournaments, knowing that in Ronaldo they unquestionably possess the most potent weapon in European football.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Cech, Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky, Hubschman (Pekhart 86), Plasil, Jiracek, Darida (Rezek 61), Pilar, Baros.

Booked: Limbersky.




PORTUGAL: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Meireles (Rolando 88), Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani (Custodio 84), Postiga (Almeida 39), Ronaldo.

Booked: Nani, Veloso.

Scorer: Ronaldo 79.

Referee: Howard Webb (England).

Attendance: 58,145.