Italy overcame England 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw in Burton and finished third in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship.
Long before the spot-kick drama, Italy, who had defeated the hosts en route to winning their section, made most of the running. A combination of stoic England defending and wasteful finishing kept the scores level, though. That was until defender Marta Vergani fired in the decisive penalty after Alice Hassall and Chloe Kelly had missed, as Italy confirmed their place in March's 2014 FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup.
The pattern of play in the opening exchanges bore an uncanny resemblance to the sides' Group A encounter. Indeed, it was one-way traffic from the outset with Italy's penchant for short, crisp passing allowing them to settle into a serene stride. The hosts were becoming increasingly edgy and almost fell behind when keeper Kirstie Levell tipped Martina Piemonte's header round a post following Lisa Boattin's inswinging corner.
The two players combined again moments later, Piemonte stabbing narrowly wide at the back post from another inviting delivery. Lois Fidler's side momentarily regained their composure but the threat from Italy remained, Manuela Giugliano dazzling in midfield alongside Annamaria Serturini, who stung the palms of Levell following a purposeful run and shot.
England emerged revitalised after the interval, examining the Azzurrni's resolve with a flurry of early corners. The passing became quicker and more incisive, but Italy stood up to the test. At the other end, a clever through ball from Serturini put forward Gloria Marinelli one-on-one with the keeper, but Levell was comfortably her equal.
Intelligent winger Serturini continued to lead the charge, scurrying down the left and sweeping across goal for substitute Valentina Bergamaschi, who came within centimetres of making a connection. For all their invention, a reward was not forthcoming for Enrico Sbardella's side, who would save their composure for the ensuing shoot-out.
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