Italy back to penalties, take third place in the Confederations Cup

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Another 120 minutes for the Italians, and again no result.

This time however, the penalty kicks went their way.

After a 2-2 final score following the conclusion of extra time, Gianluigi Buffon saved 3 of the 5 Uruguayan penalties to lead his side to the third place spot at the 2013 Confederations Cup.

The Uruguayans will be looking to take penalty practice ahead of the 2014 World Cup, as they offered Buffon little trouble in the shootout.

The match was an exciting one, with back-and-forth action for just about the entire first 90 minutes.

Italy took the lead early in the 24th minute when a gorgeous free kick by Alessandro Diamanti from way out banged off the corner of the crossbar, then off the shoulder of Uruguay keeper Fernando Musalera, and Davide Astori tapped it in for the finish. FIFA originally awarded the goal to Diamanti, but the most high-profile usage yet of goal-line technology confirmed the ball had not gone over the line before Astori tapped it in, giving Calgari defender his first international goal for the Azzurri.

(MORE: Our first major look at goal-line technology on TV, and it was glorious)

Edinson Cavani drew level for Uruguay after halftime when Luis Suarez cut back a pass to the Napoli striker and he nudged the ball to the far post past Buffon.

Alessandro Diamanti was back at it again for the Azzurri on set piece play, as his free kick in the 73rd minute went past Musalera and into the top corner to regain the lead for Italy.

Free kicks continued to play an important role, as just five minutes later Cavani doubled his goal tally with a blistering set piece into the top left, although Buffon will wish he had done better off the ball.

The Italians were forced to play the final ten minutes of extra time down a man, when Riccardo Montolivo was sent off with a second yellow, forcing him to miss Italy’s next FIFA-sanctioned match.

Italy impressed many in this tournament, taking Spain to the brink as well in the semifinals, and their prospects ahead of the World Cup are quite promising. They didn’t have their full squad in either the semis or the third place match, missing a combination of Montolivo, Andrea Pirlo, and Daniele De Rossi over the course of the two games.

For Uruguay, it’s their second straight fourth-place finish in a senior FIFA tournament after their same finish in South Africa 2010. They also finished fourth in their only other Confederations Cup appearance in 1997.

Uruguayan manager Oscar Tabarez will be looking to tweak a few things for sure before Brazil next year. His three-headed striker monster up front of Suarez, Cavani, and Diego Forlan is nice on paper, but in order to have the trio up front it requires two of them to play out of position on the wing, and inconsistency follows. At times Forlan’s crosses are dangerous and so are Cavani’s runs, but the consistency wasn’t there over the course of this tournament, and it will be something Tabarez may want to address.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

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England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

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Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.