Spain edge out Italy on penalties

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Spain's remarkable record in international football continues. With two European Championship victories and a World Cup in the last five years, they reached the Confederations Cup final with a penalty shootout victory over Italy.

Spain can count themselves fortunate to escape a semi-final which Italy dominated for long stretches, missing several clear-cut chances in the first half. This was a very different Italy from the team that Spain had demolished 4-0 a year before in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev. Spain at times looked like a listless and frustrated version of Vincent Del Bosque's all-conquering world champions. To be fair to them the heat and humidity in Fortaleza did not encourage constant movement and high-speed athleticism.

Italy looked the fitter and more confident team from the start. Emanuele Giaccherini, Alberto Gilardino and Christian Maggio all had chances, but a combination of lack of composure in the box and the excellent reflexes of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas kept the game goalless.

The penalty shoot-out was a masterclass in spot-kicks from both sides. Antonio Candreva set the tone from the start with an audacious chpped finish for Italy's first penalty. The first twelve were all scored precisely, the goalkeepers being given no chance. Then came the turn of Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci to step up, and he fired his shot high over the bar. Jesus Navas made no mistake for Spain and his team will face hosts Brazil in the final in Rio De Janeiro.

Spain were far from their best, but once more kept a clean sheet against strong opposition. Brazil will offer a considerable attacking threat but the hosts' defensive liabilities have been exposed regularly throughout the tournament.

It's an intriguing opportunity to see the two favourites for next year's World Cup go head-to-head. When Spain reach a final they tend to win, but that record has to end some day. Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari might settle for it occurring next summer but the fans will demand they win the dress rehearsal too

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