Spain edged out Italy 7-6 on penalties to reach the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup after a goalless draw in Fortaleza.
Both sides rattled the frame of the goal in a pulsating contest at the Estádio Castelão that somehow remained goalless for 120 minutes, leaving penalties to decide who would face Brazil in Sunday's final. Twelve nerveless spot-kicks followed before Leonardo Bonucci fired over, enabling Jesús Navas to settle affairs.
Having seen his side convincingly beaten 4-0 by Spain in the UEFA EURO 2012 final, Cesare Prandelli opted for an innovative 3-5-2 formation in a bid to make amends. His ingenuity should have reaped its reward in an opening half that the Azzurri dominated, only for their profligacy to undermine an enterprising 45 minutes.
Italy's high-tempo counterattacks conjured a clutch of chances with wing-backs Emanuele Giaccherini and Christian Maggio irrepressible. Alberto Gilardino clipped an early warning shot just wide before Andrea Pirlo's raking pass released Maggio, his header repelled on the edge of the area by the onrushing Iker Casillas.
Daniele De Rossi nodded a presentable opening wide from another Pirlo delivery and Claudio Marchisio's header from a Maggio knock-down also failed to work the goalkeeper. Maggio spurned the best opportunity as his header from a gliding Giaccherini centre was saved from point-blank range by Casillas, though Spain almost landed a sucker punch when Fernando Torres outwitted Andrea Barzagli only to pull his effort wide.
Vicente del Bosque's side emerged more composed after the interval even if their creative threat continued to be nullified by a determined Italy rearguard. Andrés Iniesta and Pedro Rodríguez came closest to sparking Spain, both firing wide when bearing down on Gianluigi Buffon's goal, but the dwindling intensity resulted in the contest heading for extra time.
Giaccherini quickly returned to the fore as he hammered a drive off the upright while Spain's own marauding full-back, Jordi Alba, took that as his cue, striding into the box to meet Iniesta's cute pass only to poke over Buffon's goal.
The European champions' most purposeful spell arrived as penalties loomed with Juan Mata curling wide and Xavi Hernández's speculative strike pushed onto the post by Buffon. The goalkeeper composed himself to deny Navas late on, but the midfielder had the last laugh as he coolly dispatched the decisive spot kick.
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