KIEV, Ukraine — Italy won the semifinal place its dominating play deserved, though it took a penalty shootout to overcome Englands's resistance Sunday at the European Championship.
Alessandro Diamanti scored the decisive penalty to give Italy a 4-2 shootout victory after a 0-0 draw, setting up a semifinal match against three-time champion Germany on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland.
Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo — with an audacious slow chip-shot down the middle of the goal —and Antonio Nocerino also scored for Italy.
"Tonight, we played with heart and character, but also with ideas," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "Our idea of playing was extraordinary in my opinion, against a side that was difficult to play."
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who saved a penalty in the shootout, left the field blowing out his cheeks in a gesture of relief. The goalkeeper was in goal when Italy won the 2006 World Cup in a shootout, though he did not save any France spot kicks that night in Berlin.
Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney scored England's penalties, briefly giving their team a 2-1 lead in the shootout. But Ashley Young hit the crossbar with Englands's third, and Ashley Cole's attempt was then saved by Buffon diving to his left.
For England it was yet another exit from a major tournament in the quarterfinals after a penalty shootout. England lost to Portugal in the same manner at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.
"We have done the country proud but again we go home with heartbreak and it's difficult to take," said Gerrard, who played in both those previous shootout losses.
England coach Roy Hodgson said he had faith in those selected for the shootout, and recalled Cole's cool finish to help Chelsea win the Champions League on penalties last month against Bayern Munich. (AP/TW)