Jesus Navas scored the winning penalty in Spain’s Confederations Cup semifinal win over Italy, Thursday, sending Azzurri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way and putting the world and European champions through to Sunday’s final against Spain at the Maracana.
Less than a minute prior Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci had skied his effort from the spot, becoming the first shooter in 13 to have failed to put the ball in the back of the net. Spain’s attempts had been generally been cool and hard while a handful of Italy players, including Antonio Candreva, Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo, went a more cheeky route.
If ever there was a match where penalties were not only required but desired from both teams this was surely it. The heat of Fortaleza did not diminish over the course of 90 minutes and extra time, and when referee Howard Webb finally blew his whistle to end the additional periods both sets of players must surely have felt some relief.
Not that they hadn’t been presented chances to score from open play.
Italy, who managed to really give Spain a go at Estadio Castelao, came close in the first half when Christian Maggio, timing his run to perfection and meeting Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross after evading the offside trap, was saved brilliantly by Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
La Roja had their moments as well, and no more promisingly so than when Barcelona maestro Xavi nearly put his side ahead in the first section of extra time.
Moving delicately into a bit of open space near the edge of the 18-yard box, the playmaker unleashed a vicious, right-footed drive that Buffon was only able to push off the upright.