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Spain reigns in penalty kicks

It advances to the semifinals of European Championship after playing 120 scoreless minutes against Italy. Next up is Russia.

June 23, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

World Cup holder Italy crashed out of soccer's European Championship on Sunday, losing to Spain, 4-2 on penalty kicks, after the teams had played to a 0-0 tie after 120 minutes of regulation and overtime.

Spain dominated the quarterfinal match in Vienna but was unable to capitalize on the scoring chances it created. That, plus the goalkeeping of Italy's Gianluigi Buffon and a bit of bad luck, kept the Spaniards off the scoreboard for two hours.

But when the outcome had to be decided by penalty kicks, Spanish nerves held, goalkeeper Iker Casillas came up big with two crucial saves, and Spain advanced to play Russia in a potentially fascinating semifinal in Vienna on Thursday.

In the other semifinal, tournament favorite Germany will play Turkey in Basel, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Sunday's match saw the Spanish carry the game to the Italians from the outset. Spain ended up outshooting Italy by a wide margin, but most of the shots were off target.

The bad luck for Spain -- and good luck of Italy -- came when Brazilian-born midfielder Marcos Senna sent a shot fizzing past Buffon only to see the ball ricochet back off the foot of the right post and into Buffon's arms.

The Italians managed few shots, and striker Luca Toni, the top goal scorer in Germany last season, exited the tournament without a goal.

The closest Italy came to scoring was on a shot by Mauro Camoranesi that Casillas rejected with a stunning foot save.

When the match went to the penalty shootout, David Villa, Santi Cazorla, Senna and Cesc Fabregas scored for Spain, with Buffon saving Daniel Guiza's shot.

For Italy, Fabio Grosso and Camoranesi scored, but Casillas saved shots from Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale.

Although the match goes into the record books as a tie, thus keeping intact Italy's 88-year record of never having lost to Spain in a World Cup or European Championship, the Spanish were more interested in advancing.

"Penalties are always a lottery and it was about time we won one; we deserve it," Casillas said.

Failing to reach the semifinals could cost Roberto Donadoni his job as Italy's coach, even though he recently signed a new contract. More was expected at Euro 2008 from the reigning world champions, but Donadoni tried to put on a brave face.

"I think the players should leave here with their heads held high," he said. "They gave everything they had. We have simply got to live with this. Tomorrow is the start of a new era."

Jones reported from Los Angeles.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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