In a quite incredible evening in Recife, Italy came out on top and secured their place in the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-finals with a 4-3 victory over Japan.
The Italians came from two goals down to lead 3-2 before Japan drew level. Substitute Sebastian Giovinco had the last word though, as he tapped home a Claudio Marchisio cross to secure the win.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s men started brightly and created some good chances early on, and they got their reward for that positive approach. A slack back-pass from Mattia De Sciglio saw Shinji Okazaki nip the ball away from Buffon, who took Japan’s No9 down. Keisuke Honda sent his side to the FIFA World Cup™ with a decisive spot-kick last week and made no mistake this time either, slamming the ball low into the net past Buffon’s outstretched left hand.
The instrumental Kagawa then doubled Japan’s lead. The ball bounced awkwardly on the edge of the Italy box, and the Manchester United man swivelled and struck a sweet left-foot strike past the diving Buffon.
Cesare Prandelli's men then dragged themselves back into the game. Daniele De Rossi rose highest to head home an Andrea Pirlo corner after a short period of Italian pressure. Gli Azzurri then seemed in the ascendancy and the Japanese were thankful for the half-time whistle.
Italy started the second half as they ended the first. Giaccherini did well to keep the ball in on the byline, to the left, and fired the ball across goal towards Balotelli. It did not reach the AC Milan forward as Atsuto Uchida inadvertently slid the ball into his own net.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s men completed a remarkable turnaround just moments later after Japanese captain Makoto Hasebe handled a Sebastian Giovinco shot. Mario Balotelli stepped up and made no mistake, passing the ball into the bottom left-hand side of the goal after sending Kawashima the wrong way.
The game then changed direction once again as Japan drew level. An Endo free-kick from the right was headed home by Okazaki, despite the best efforts of Buffon.
After a period of concerted Japanese pressure, Okazaki struck the post. The ball rebounded out to Kagawa, whose header hit the bar and went over in an extraordinary passage of play.
Italy then delivered a sucker punch, with De Rossi finding Marchisio inside the Japanese area, whose square pass was tapped home by Giovinco to put the Italians back in front.
Japan had a goal disallowed in the closing stages after Maya Yoshida was adjudged offside, but it was to be Italy’s night in the end, as they secured their place in the semi-finals along with Brazil.