Jesus Navas celebrates scoring the winning penalty in a shootout during… (Robert Cianflone / Getty…)
The reign of Spain ... well, it isn't over just yet.
But it was close with second-half substitute Jesus Navas sending the World Cup champions on to the Confederations Cup final with a dramatic penalty-kick shootout win.
After 90 minutes of scoreless play in regulation and another 30 scoreless minutes in overtime, Spain couldn't miss the net in the shootout, converting all seven of its tries. Italy missed just once when Leonardo Bonucci's kick opening the seventh round sailed over the crossbar. That opened the door for Navas and he didn't miss, leaving Spain unbeaten in its last 29 consecutive matches.
Spain's reward for surviving a long, steamy match in the heat and humidity of Fortaleza, Brazil, is an invitation to meet a well-rested Brazilian team in Sunday's tournament final in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil beat Uruguay, 2-1, in its semifinal Wednesday.
Italy had a number of chances to win the match before going to penalty kicks -- as did Spain.
Italy's Emanuele Giaccherini missed on a great opportunity early in the first 15-minute overtime when his wide-open shot from the left wing struck the goal post. The near-miss seemed to inspire Spain, however, who began to throw everything they had at the Italian net.
Gerard Pique let a golden chance get away when he took one too many touches. And moments after that, Jordi Alba missed over the crossbar after being set up on a great pass from Andres Iniesta.
Juan Mata then opened the second overtime by missing the net wide left. Then Spain's best opportunity came with about five minutes left in the second overtime when Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon got one hand on Xavi's blast from the edge of the box, deflecting it off the goalpost to Javi Martinez, whose shot on the rebound went wide.
A minute later Buffon made another great save on a low shot by Navas.
But if the overtime belonged to Buffon, much of the first 90 minutes belonged to his teammates.
Playing without injured striker Mario Balotelli, Italy came out as the aggressor, dominating a first half that consisted largely of Italian forwards running past Alba only to have Spanish keeper Iker Casillas keep his team in the game with a number of fine saves, including a great one on a diving header by Christian Maggio in the 36th minute.
Italy outshot the World Cup champions 9-2 in the first half even though Spain led nearly 2 to 1 in time of possession. Over the 75 minutes, however, Spain had a 19-6 edge in shots.
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