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Euro 2012 quarter final: England 0 Italy 0, Italy win 4-2 on penalties

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England departed Euro 2012, beaten again in a penalty shoot-out, with Ashley Cole, magnificent all tournament, missing the crucial kick.

Italy dominated long spells of the 90 minutes and for the first time in the tournament, normal time finished goalless.

Extra time continued in the same vein with Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in the Italian engine room but the Azzurri could not beat Joe Hart.

And for the fourth time in row in a knockout stage at the European Championships it would be penalties that decided England’s fate.

Mario Balotelli took the first penalty and he stuck the ball into the corner past Joe Hart and Steven Gerrard produced a carbon copy past Gianluigi Buffon.

Riccardo Montolivo fired his penalty wide of the left hand post and Wayne Rooney gave England the advantage.

Pirlo coolly chipped his penalty into the middle of the goal with Hart diving to his right but Ashley Young hit the bar to make it even again.

Antonio Nocolino sent the Manchester City stopper the wrong way, while Ashley Cole saw his effort saved by Buffon.

It was left to Alessandro Diamanti to score and send England out.

It seemed a long time ago that Daniele De Rossi nearly broke the deadlock with only four minutes on the clock as his long range effort agonisingly crashed against the post with Joe Hart beaten.

Moments later, James Milner’s cross fell to Glen Johnson but his effort was kept out by Italy star Buffon.

The Three Lions then settled into their stride and looked to break past the Italian full backs and produce the killer cross.

Johnson then produced a killer cross and Rooney’s diving header went agonisingly over the bar from eight yards.

Joleon Lescott brought down Balotelli with just over a quarter of an hour gone but Italy wasted their first opportunity since the opening minutes.

Both sides were looking to attack at every opportunity and after a Milner cross was cleared a long ball fell to Balotelli but John Terry brilliantly snuffed out the danger.

Riccardo Montolivo then produced a wonderful ball to the Manchester City striker but his shot was at his Citizens colleague Hart.

England broke and Danny Welbeck produced a great one-two with Rooney but the former fired over the bar.

Antonio Cassano was the next player to test Hart and the Manchester City was equal to his effort.

Italy then had their best chance when Balotelli was unable to convert from close range after fantastic play by Andrea Pirlo.

England came quickly out of the traps in the second half and Scott Parker produced a wonderful run down the right but his cross let him down.

However, Italy should have taken the lead when De Rossi snatched at his shot from five yards and fired wide.

England became sloppy in their play, constantly giving the ball away, allowing the four times World Cup winners to dominate possession and the chances.

De Rossi caused Hart to parry from long range straight to Balotelli, whose shot was straight at the stopper and Montolivo blazed over.

The Manchester City striker was at it again, on the hour mark as he tried an overhead kick on the penalty spot, which went over the bar.

England finally had a spell of possession and Young’s shot was just wide, thanks to a deflection.

Italy substitute Alessandro Diamanti, formerly of West Ham, tested Hart from range but the Manchester City man was equal to it.

That was enough for the 90 minutes and Diamanti then nearly grabbed the opening goal as his miss-hit cross scraped the post on its way wide.

And the former Hammer missed a shot in the second half of extra time to fire over with eight minutes remaining.

Italy did have the ball in the net but Antonio Nocerino was adjudged offside as England held out for penalties.

And although Montolivo missed his kick, Young and Cole failed to score and England went home.

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