Boring, exciting, slow and dramatic describes the first 120 minutes of the Confederations Cup semifinal match between Spain and Italy. But Jesus what a finish.
After losing their top player Mario Balotelli to a leg injury leading into Thursday's matchup with Spain, Italy knew they had to control the tempo and play behind the ball to take them down.
The Italians did a great job of keeping Spain in front of them for the first 90 minutes of action and threaded the ball well to get many good shots on goal, especially in the first half which saw Italy take nine shots and three on goal. Spain came on strong in extra time, finishing sudden death with a 53-47 possession percentage heading into penalty kicks.
After a stressful game of soccer that many characterized as a straight matchup between goalies Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, saves were nonexistent when it counted. Spain and Italy each notched their first six kicks with ease before Leonardo Bonucci sailed one over the net and allowed Jesus Navas to seal Spain's ticket to the finals with the seventh and final shot for Spain.
Leading into the matchup, Twitter was bogged down with fans predicting a blowout for Spain, similar to the 4-0 win they notched against Italy in the 2012 Euro Final. After being controlled for the majority of the game however, Spain needed a savior:
♫Jesus D savior is doing wonders in our lives We're Grateful♫ RT @tyblac: It is always about the saviour..Jesus Navas..— Mad Mic. (@Etiobi) June 27, 2013
Italy fans were humble in defeat but they didn't expect to be beaten by a relative unknown force. This tweet says it all:
RT @wengerknowsbest: Italy will be very low tonight. They did not see that coming. They thought Jesus Navas played for Manchester City.— Sash (@Musa_Souled) June 27, 2013
Although both goalies did a fantastic job of keeping their composure in regulation and extra time in what was a slow paced game, everyone, including myself, will have this image in our mind for a while:
Spain will now move on to face host Brazil in the finals of the Confederations Cup on June 30 while Italy will get Uruguay in the third place game on the same day. Spain seemed to be the best team before and during the tournament but everything has changed.
A jolt from Jesus propelled Spain to victory but their methodical pace proved to be subjugated when pressured with a similar style. Heading into a game with Brazil, Goliath may be playing the role of David.
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