England lost another major championship penalty shootout – this time to Italy – as a valiant display ultimately ended in defeat for Roy Hodgson’s men.
Ashley Young and Ashley Cole joined the long-list of Three Lions fall guys, with the pair both failing with their efforts after Ricardo Montolivo had missed first for the Azzurri.
The result will be seen as justice for the Italians, who played the better football throughout the 120 minutes and thought they’d won it in the second-half of extra time when Antonio Nocerino headed home at the far post. He was correctly judged to be offside.
England had a decent spell of possession early in the first-half, with Glen Johnson forcing Gianluigi Buffon into a good save after Daniele De Rossi had hit the post at the other end with a sliced shot from distance.
John Terry did well to block a Mario Balotelli later in the period, and in-truth the Chelsea centre back was the stand-out performer throughout the match for England as their backs were pushed further and further against the wall.
Andrea Pirlo began to grow into the game however, and the Juventus midfielder dictated play for the majority of the game to create a platform for Italy to play from.
Mario Balotelli had a couple of decent chances, one prevented by a good clearance from Joleon Lescott, whilst De Rossi missed a sitter in the second-half from six yards out after England failed to clear a corner.
Alessandro Diamanti hit the post in extra-time, and then Hart saved from Balotelli before Montolivo fired over in the closing stages.
It would come down to penalties however, with Balotelli and Steven Gerrard both scoring the first efforts before Montolivo fired wide.
Wayne Rooney, who could have snatched glory with an overhead kick late in extra-time, capitalised on the advantage before Pirlo’s audacious chip from the spot got Italy back on level terms.
Young then fired against the crossbar before Nocerino sent the keeper the wrong way, and then Cole’s tame effort was easily saved by Buffon diving to his left.
Diamanti made no mistake with the last kick, and now Italy face Germany in a Euro 2012 semi-final on Thursday night.