An incredible clash at the Itaipava Arena Pernambuco saw Italy book their place in the Confederations Cup semi-finals with a 4-3 defeat of Japan, who were eliminated from the tournament in heartbreaking fashion.
Needing a draw to stand a chance of making the last four, Alberto Zaccheroni's men got off to an incredible start, racing into a two-goal lead through Keisuke Honda's penalty and Shinji Kagawa's neat finish.
But a spectacular 11-minute turnaround either side of half-time saw Italy score thrice to retake the lead, through Daniele De Rossi's header, Atsuto Uchida's own goal and Mario Balotelli's spot kick.
Shinji Okazaki then drew Japan level with 21 minutes remaining, but despite a late rally by the Samurai Blue, they were finished for good with four minutes remaining by Sebastian Giovinco's strike, as Italy join Brazil as Group A's representatives in the last four.
Cesare Prandelli made two changes to the side that beat Mexico 2-1 Sunday, with Christian Maggio and Alberto Aquilani coming in for Ignazio Abate and Claudio Marchisio, while Japan saw Ryoichi Maeda return to lead the line.
And the Jubilo Iwata forward could have made an instant impact after only five minutes, but did not direct his header well from Kagawa’s inch-perfect cross, as Gianluigi Buffon saved comfortably.
Zaccheroni’s men were the brighter side throughout the opening exchanges, and with 20 minutes on the clock, were handed the chance to take the lead when Buffon conceded a penalty after upending Okazaki inside the area.
The keeper escaped with only a yellow card, but was powerless to stop Honda’s low strike to the bottom right corner from 12 yards, despite guessing correctly.
Balotelli was then incredulous that he was denied a penalty of his own after tussling with Maya Yoshida, but in truth, it was an unlikely claim for an increasingly desperate Italy, who were struggling to match the intensity of Japan.
And with just over half an hour gone, the Samurai Blue made their superiority count once again. Italy failed to clear a ball into the box, and Kagawa was quickly on it, planting a fine half-volley into the corner.
In fact, Honda could have made it 3-0 moments later from a free-kick, but Buffon was on hand this time to make a smart double save to keep the deficit at two.
Italy finally began to wake up as the half neared its end, and it was Andrea Pirlo, as ever, leading their revival, coming close with a wicked free-kick that whistled just over the top.
But the Juventus midfielder was deadly accurate with his delivery from a corner in the 41st minute, picking out De Rossi at the near post and the Roma star thumped home with his head.
Japan were stunned, and nearly capitulated at the end of the half when Emanuele Giaccherini’s bit of trickery saw him evade his marker but crash the ball off the frame of the goal.
But their resistance lasted little more than five minutes after the restart, as Giaccherini’s pass across the face of goal to Balotelli was reached first by Uchida, who ended up turning the ball into his own net.
And two minutes later, it got even more painful for Japan, when Makoto Hasebe conceded a penalty for an extremely harsh handball call, from which Balotelli, as ever, converted coolly from the spot to put Italy in front for the first time.
Eiji Kawashima was then called into action twice in quick succession to deny Giovinco and De Rossi, and his efforts were rewarded at the other end in the 69th minute, when Okazaki headed home from Yasuhito Endo’s free kick.
But not for the first time, Japan were left cursing their luck when an almighty scramble inside the box saw Okazaki hit the post, before Kagawa's headed follow-up bounced off the floor and smacked off the crossbar.
And in the 86th minute, just when Zaccheroni's men looked like stealing the winner, Italy put the game to bed when De Rossi released Marchisio, who in turn squared for Giovinco to stab high into the back of the net.
Yoshida then had a goal disallowed for offside, and Buffon was forced to tip away from Honda as Japan fought or their lives, but time was no longer on their side as the final whistle signalled the end of their campaign.
|5||M. De Sciglio|
|16||D. De Rossi||36' 41'|
|Coach: C. Prandelli|
for A. Aquilani 30'
for C. Maggio 59'
for E. Giaccherini 68'
|Conte masterclass marks end of an era for Spain|
|Italy 2 Spain 0: Chiellini and Pelle send holders crashing out|
|Substance over style for Portugal´s Fonte|
|Robinson agrees one-year deal at Burnley|
|FFP could hold up Toure switch to Inter, claims agent|
|Dani Alves completes Juventus move|
|Coleman confident Williams will be fit to face Belgium|
|Iordanescu to leave Romania post|
|Messi decision sad – Griezmann|
|Blanc wishes PSG successor luck|
|No goals or assists in Argentina finals: The best stats from Messi´s international career|
|Eleven trophies and records galore: The best stats from Blanc´s PSG reign|
|Griezmann at home in the centre|
|Forest appoint Montanier|
|Manchester United to get Mkhitaryan answer this week|
|Raffael extends contract with Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Mane closes in on Liverpool move|
|Blanc departs PSG with Emery waiting in the wings|
|O´Neill hopeful of Republic of Ireland stay|
|Lewandowski does not faze Fonte|
|Wales better as underdogs – Coleman|
|Beckenbauer would prefer Germany to play Spain, not Italy|
|Messi retirement highlights implosion of Argentinian football|
|Bravo: I hope Messi continues playing for Argentina|
|Aguero: Messi not the only player considering retirement|
|I think Messi is just upset, Romero says after captain announces retirement|
|Aguero: This is the worst I have seen Messi|
|Messi set to retire from international football|
|Sanchez: This is the best thing to happen to me|
|Martino: Argentina deserved to beat Chile in final|
|Vidal: This Chile generation is to stand|
|Sanchez crowned Copa´s best as champions Chile sweep awards|
|Argentina 0 Chile 0 (aet, 2-4 on penalties): Defending champs sink Messi and Co. again|
|Taylor ready for Belgium test|
|Portland Timbers 3 Houston Dynamo 2: Valeri late show seals win|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Love blossoms in Paris and last orders for Ireland as Hallgrimsson baits England|
|De Bruyne, Belgium target Euro 2016 final|
|Wilmots: Hazard does his talking with his feet|
|Storck enthusiastic about Hungary future|
|My best Belgium performance - Hazard|
|´It took him long enough!´ - Schweinsteiger hails Boateng´s first Germany goal|
|Courtois: Hungary made an error by coming to play|
|No back-three fears for Spain boss Del Bosque|
|Grigg fired by Euro bench duty|
|Davis: Stranger things have happened than O´Neill to Southampton|
|Gunnarsson insists Iceland do not fear England|
|Brilliant Hazard inspires Belgium´s golden boys|
|Student Morata wants to bring down Juventus masters with Spain|
|Hungary 0 Belgium 4: Hazard inspires Wilmots´ men into quarter-finals|
|Conte demands extraordinary Italy to topple Spain|
|Nolito: No contact with Barca or Man City|
|Alves jets into Turin for Juve medical|
|Low: No sleepless nights over Italy or Spain|
|Kozak: Germany had too much quality|
|Fury gets in the spirit with England fans in Nice|
|Draxler shares the plaudits as Germany move through|
|O´Shea not drawn on Ireland future|
|Rami: France were scared of going out|
|Germany 3 Slovakia 0: Spain or Italy await for world champions after comprehensive win|
|Brilliant Boateng gets Germany juggernaut motoring|
|Lagerback hopes England´s attacking struggles will continue|
|Juventus, Napoli and Roma ´all interested in De Sciglio´|
|O´Neill hails coming of age for Ireland´s youngsters|
|England will not disrespect Iceland, says Rooney|
|Deschamps stands firm on team changes|
|Hodgson adamant he is happy with England strikers|
|Evra: We knew it would be difficult|
|Deschamps: We had to dig deep|
|Rooney: Do not question Sterling´s attitude|
|O´Neill: France´s extra rest took its toll|
|France star Payet: It is difficult to stop us|
|Griezmann: Stern words led to second-half fightback|
|Coleman: We felt it was there for us|
|Deschamps defies doubters as France heed call to arms|
|Konko ´in talks´ to join AC Milan|
|Sigurdsson looking forward to dream England clash|
|Cacic: Croatia´s time will come|
|Italy v Spain will be different to Euro 2012 final - Camoranesi|
|France 2 Republic of Ireland 1: Griezmann double rescues hosts|
|Capello: Spain are pure magic|
|Wolfsburg complete Bruma signing|
|Koke: Spain need to bring back ´The Red Fury´|
|Pizzi: Chile can beat Messi and Argentina|
|Schalke swoop for Swiss star Embolo|
|Subotic signals intention to leave Dortmund|
|Howedes eager for France showdown|
|Russia confirm Slutsky resignation|
|Pirlo: Italy out for Spain revenge|
|Vokes consoles McAuley after Wales march on|
|Italy-Spain a battle of world´s best - Llorente|
|Messi one win away from becoming the greatest|
|Play-offs the goal as Baptista settles into life in Orlando|
|Colombia closer to winning titles - Pekerman|
|MLS Review: Kaka scores 100th-minute penalty in thriller, Lampard inspires NYC|
|Portugal ´don´t have a clue how they scored´ – Rakitic|
|Klinsmann: USA should be proud of Copa America display|
|United States 0 Colombia 1: Bacca secures third place at Copa America|
|Corluka: Portugal among worst teams at Euro 2016|
|Sanches happy to be involved as Portugal reach quarters|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Shaqiri rivals Pique for Shakira´s affection, Bale reveals secret weapon|
|Morata: I have nothing to prove to Zidane|
|Di Maria fit for Copa final|
|´You do not always win by playing prettily´ - Santos unconcerned by dour Portugal|
|The best team lost, says disconsolate Cacic|
|Fabianski: Poland must create more for Lewandowski|
|McAuley pride after crushing Wales loss|
|Ronaldo takes one for the team as Portugal emerge from drudgery in Lens|
|Croatia 0 Portugal 1 (aet): Quaresma earns quarter-final berth|
|Hodgson will not beg for FA approval after Euro 2016|
|Emotional Bale glad to share Paris joy with family|
|O´Neill left frustrated by officials following Euro 2016 exit|
|Coleman hails Bale brilliance in Wales win|
|Low relying on Kroos to lead Germany the way|
|Italy v Spain: Thiago denies shirt jinx ahead of Azzurri clash|
|O´Neill: McAuley has been magnificent|
|Szczesny thanks Swiss fans for drink|
|Hector: Slovakia have plenty of quality in attack|
|Morata: Italy defenders have told me to wear a helmet|
|Coleman content with scrappy Wales progression|
|Wales remain and Northern Ireland leave after Paris battle|
|We are free of pressure - Gera|
|´Do I look like I have doubts?´ - Defiant Nawalka defends Lewandowski|
|Wales 1 Northern Ireland 0: McAuley´s woe is Welsh joy|
|No chance Barcelona star Neymar will join Madrid, says his father|
|Witsel happier to face Hungary than Spain|
|Wilmots accepts pressure ahead of Hungary test|
|Slovakia can upset Germany again - Pekarik|
|Shaqiri unhappy with Poland celebrations after Euro 2016 exit|
|Grosicki struggled to watch Poland shootout win|
|Poland need Lewandowski to rediscover ruthless streak|
|Switzerland 1 Poland 1 (aet, 4-5 pens): Xhaka shocker costs Swiss after Shaqiri magic|
|Payet can handle hero status - Deschamps|
|Redmond joins Southampton on five-year deal|
|Sturridge: Sterling unfairly targeted over England performances|
|Wilmots: I want more from smiling De Bruyne|
|Croatia star Perisic unveils latest wacky hairstyle|
|Brazil´s Lucas Lima wants European move|
|Lloris tempers talk of Ireland revenge mission|
|Deschamps refuses to make France ´98 comparisons|
|O´Neill confident Ireland can shock France|
|Chiellini will give Morata a few kicks - Barzagli|
|England v Iceland: Rooney targets early goal|
|Italy´s Candreva ruled out of Spain match|
|Butland ready for pre-season after scan gives goalkeeper all-clear|
|Origi not underestimating Hungary|
|Plans drafted for Old Firm games to be played abroad|
|Boost for Germany as Boateng trains ahead of last 16|
|I never saw Ronaldo look in the mirror! - Ancelotti|
|Fabregas fears Brexit will damage Premier League|
|Roy not keen on Ireland allocation|
|Dyke backs Hodgson for new contract|
|Spain not as aggressive as 2012, claims Ancelotti|
|Ronaldo and Messi need each other – Ancelotti|
|Juve on the same level as Madrid and Barcelona - Dybala|
|Fabregas: Conte´s Italy will be tough|
|Argentina v Chile: New year, same Copa finalists|
|Ronaldo ´cannot be the whole of Portugal´ - Shilton|
|Messi: Neymar is an amazing person|
|Pekerman keen to finish Copa on high note|
|Rakitic: Ronaldo won´t sleep easily|
|Messi: Now is not a time to give nothing|
|Courtois expects to leave Chelsea in future|
|Less rest no problem for Portugal - Joao Mario|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Benteke rap and Nelly the elephant|