England knocked out by penalties

PA Sport
England suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy at Euro 2012
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England suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy at Euro 2012

England's penalty shoot-out misery continued in Kiev as they crashed out of Euro 2012 4-2 on penalties after the score against Italy was tied 0-0 after extra-time.

After Mario Balotelli's talk of Peter Pan, the semi-finals of a major tournament are becoming the equivalent of Never Never Land for the Three Lions. Six times now they have lost in such fashion, the last four at this stage of the competition.

This time it was the turn of Ashley Young and Ashley Cole to join the unhappy list of those whose nerve failed them when it mattered. Both men needed consoling as Italy began their celebrations as, outplayed for long periods of an absorbing game, all England's defensive effort proved in vain.

It means Italy march onto Thursday's semi-final with Germany in Warsaw and leaves Roy Hodgson to pick the bones from an otherwise impressive tournament in time for next autumn's World Cup qualifiers.

Before the drama, all those pre-match predictions of a tight, cagey affair had been blown to bits inside the opening five minutes. Claudio Marchisio picked out Daniele de Rossi with a peach of a cut-back, and - starved of possession in those early stages, England eventually countered through Glen Johnson.

The Liverpool defender continued his run after laying a pass off to Ashley Young and was picked out inside the box by James Milner. But Johnson took vital seconds manoeuvring the ball into a position from which he could shoot, and when he did, Gianluigi Buffon stood firm to make an excellent one-handed save.

They were the most notable efforts of a surprisingly open start, during which Wayne Rooney sent a diving header over and Andrea Pirlo released Mario Balotelli, only for John Terry to rescue the situation with a vital tackle.

It was spellbinding stuff, with Italy having the edge in craft and guile, whilst also looking vulnerable when England attacked at pace. Balotelli's notoriously fragile temperament resulted in him lashing out at a post after spurning another opportunity, which Pirlo and Antonio Cassano combined to provide.

Hodgson had seen enough and after Balotelli's overhead kick had gone over, Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott were introduced. With Italy making changes as well, the game lost its shape, so, as had been imagined, extra-time was required.

Antonio Nocerino thought he had won it six minutes from the end but his header was correctly ruled out for offside - which merely delayed the inevitable. That England led after the first two rounds of penalties to give hope, only made defeat all the more crushing former West Ham man Alessandro Diamanti delivered the final blow.

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