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Italy downs England on penalties

Italy needed penalty kicks to defeat England, but the result was deserved.

Gianluigi Buffon saved a penalty from Ashley Cole and Alessandro Diamanti made the clinching spot kick as Italy won the shootout, 4-2, after a 0-0 tie in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Nocerino also converted penalties as Italy overcame a second-round miss from Riccardo Montolivo, who shot wide left to let England goalie Joe Hart off the hook.

Ashley Young struck the crossbar for England to cancel out the Montolivo miss, and Buffon followed with the save on Young to set up Diamanti for the winner.

Italy will play Germany on Thursday in the semifinals. Portugal and Spain will play the other semifinal on Wednesday.

"Penalties are a lottery but I thought we deserved victory in the end," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "Around 80 percent of penalty shootouts go down to luck.

"Some players are used to this kind of pressure, some are just calm in these situations - but mainly it's down to good fortune."

The match started with a flurry as Daniele De Rossi drilled the left post with less than 3 minutes off the clock for Italy and Buffon made a great one-handed reaction save to deny Glen Johnson of England from 6 yards in the 5th minute.

Wayne Rooney drove a diving header high in the 14th, and Balotelli forced Hart into a save in the 32nd, as the teams chances dwindled in the remainder of the first half.

Italy enjoyed the better chances in the second half as De Rossi missed an open chance from close range wide right, then forced Hart to knock a free kick back into traffic, where Balotelli and Montolivo missed rebound shots in the 52nd.

Balotelli tried a bicycle kick in the 60th but shot high, and Young had a shot from close range deflected wide in the 65th as England tried to connect on one of its rare chances.

With the game still scoreless into stoppage time, Rooney tried to send England into the semifinals with a bicycle kick, but he lifted the shot over the bar.

Italy found the left post again in the first extra time, as Diamanti drilled a shot off the upright in the 102nd, and the Italians looked to have the winner in the 115th when he headed into the net but saw it called back for offside.

Neither team could find the winner through 120 minutes and Buffon made the one save that made the difference, as Italy won for the third time in eight career shootouts in major tournaments.

England lost for the sixth time in seven all-time major shootouts.

"We gave our all but weren't quite good enough in the 120 minutes and when it went to penalties it went as it so often does for England," England coach Roy Hodgson said. "We go away unbeaten in normal time; but we go home because we can't win on penalties".