Italy vs. Japan, 2013 Confederations Cup: Final score 4-3, Japanese eliminated with loss in wild game

Claudio Villa

Italy dumped Japan in absolutely heartbreaking but ultimately entertaining fashion on Wednesday. Brazil and Italy will play for the group lead while Japan and Mexico will play a consolation game.

Japan have been dumped out of the Confederations Cup in the most heartbreaking of circumstances. They dominated the beginning of their match against Italy and appeared to have the Azzurri on the ropes, but threw away their lead quickly. Japan leveled the match after Italy went ahead, but conceded a late goal in a 4-3 loss that sees Brazil and Italy into the quarterfinals.

For the first 40 minutes, Italy were hardly involved in the game. They were absolutely steamrolled from the start and finally conceded a goal in the 21st minute. However, it was an unfortunate one for Italy to give away; referee Diego Abal gave a very suspect penalty for a foul by Gianluigi Buffon when he appeared to make a clean tackle. Keisuke Honda stepped up and buried the spot kick.

There was considerably less controversy about the second goal, a stellar half-volley on a bouncing ball by Shinji Kagawa. At that point, there didn't appear to be much of a way back into the game for Italy, but they took advantage of a 40th minute free kick to halve their deficit. Daniele De Rossi scored it, and his header was his team's first shot on target.

The beginning of the second half was a downright disaster for Japan, who threw away their lead and let the Azzurri go in front in a matter of eight minutes. Atsuto Uchida directed an own goal into the back of the Japan net in the 50th minute while trying to cut out a cross to Mario Balotelli and the go-ahead goal came just two minutes after that. The referee questionably pointed to the spot for a very hard to spot and unintentional handball by Makoto Hasebe. Balotelli buried it, putting Italy up 3-2.

As wild as the game was up until that point, it only got crazier from there. Japan looked a bit defeated for a couple of minutes, but picked themselves up and soon started pressuring the Italian goal again. They surprisingly netted an equalizer in the 69th minute, with Shinji Okazaki heading in a free kick to level the game.

Japan remained on top for the rest of the game and had considerably more chances than Italy, but the Azzurri took the one good one they got. On a brilliant counter attack, just seconds after Japan hit the woodwork twice in less than two seconds, Italy struck to record the winner. Claudio Marchisio set it up with a great run down the right side of the box where he picked the ball up before squaring for Sebastian Giovinco, who had a tap-in to win the match for his country.

The Japanese squad experienced yet another heartbreaking moment in stoppage time, when what they thought was a dramatic equalizer was disallowed for offside.

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