World and European champions Spain are into the final of the Confederations Cup after seeing off Italy in Fortaleza. The final score was 7-6, ending in penalties.
La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) of Spain will now meet Selacao of Brazil on Sunday to decide the winner of the World Cup dress-rehearsal in Rio de Janeiro.
Spain substitute Jesus Navas guided the decisive penalty past Gianluigi Buffon after Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci missed.
In a game that was heading for the extra-time, Italy had the opportunity to have put paid to the tension-soaked encounter but were soon left ruing missed chances.
Both European nations came close to scoring after ninety minutes when Emmanuele Giaccherini hit Spain post and Buffon pushed Xavi’s shot on to the woodwork.
The penalty shootout witnessed the best of Europe’s clinical touches and precisions in front of goal as each of the first 12 penalties were concerted.
As Bonnuci raced down the penalty line into the spot, many would have feared the worst before he blasted his effort over Iker Casillas’ crossbar.
But new Manchester City winger Navas coolly converted past Buffon to set up an eagerly anticipated clash against the host nation, who defeated Uruguay 2-1 on Wednesday.
The road to the Maracana Stadium, where the final will be staged, has been mapped out. Italy squandered a host of chances to have missed the navigation.
The Italians dominated much of the first half, tight and compact in the defense and breaking quickly down their opponent’s flanks. Spain, 4-0 winners of the corresponding fixture in Euro 2012 final, looked vulnerable as they failed to cope with the Italian raids, but were left unpunished.
Napoli’s Christian Maggio missed three clear-cut chances, notably when heading straight at Casillas from six yards unmarked, as well as creating spurned opportunities for Alberto Gilardino and Claudio Marchisio.
The stern expression etched across coach Vicente del Bosque’s face as the game approached half-time epitomized Spain’s worries.
Spain’s lethargic approach continued after the interval. Italy backed by a large session of supporters inside the Estadio Castelao, continued to press with Marchisio denied by a desperate block from Gerard Pique and Giorgio Chiellini heading Andrea Pirlo’s corner onto the roof of Spanish net.
While the contest dragged on the energy of the Italians started to wane, while Spain found renewed energy as the game entered extra-time- Xavi and Andres Iniesta pushing and probing the tiring Italian defence with their slick interchanges.
Pique saw a shot blocked, Daniele De Rossi pocked clear away from Sergio Ramos and the Real Madrid defender then lashed over as Spain piled on the pressure with a succession of corners.
In the final moments of extra-time, Italy captain Buffon unconvincingly pushed Xavi’s arcing long-range shot onto his left-hand post and escaped further punishment when substitute Jarvi Martinez steered the rebound wide.
Navas’ drilled cross was palmed away by Buffon as the Italians held out for penalties after a breathless finale.
Either goalkeepers were virtual bystanders in the shoot-out full of high-quality finishes, but Spain were left celebrating after Navas’ winner. They travel to Rio hoping to add the Confederations Cup to their trophy haul.