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'
|´Equating Messi with anyone else is like comparing a policeman with Batman´ - Sampaoli|
|It will take years to build football culture, Wenger warns CSL|
|´Worried´ Rakitic wants Barca renewal|
|Inter not signing Messi - Moratti|
|Luis Enrique hails Barca defence after ending Anoeta curse|
|´He is made of different stuff´ - Spalletti hails Nainggolan after wondergoal|
|Tottenham´s Janssen turned down Galatasaray move, agent claims|
|Did Carroll´s wondergoal give the West Ham striker whiplash?|
|Iniesta suffers calf injury|
|Swansea situation not ´hopeless´, says Clement|
|Real Sociedad 0 Barcelona 1: Neymar ends Anoeta curse|
|´Immeasurable bulls**t´ - Ligue 1 coach destroys Van Basten´s offside plan|
|Simeone praises Atletico´s precision in Copa Del Rey win|
|Fonte situation difficult for Southampton - Puel|
|´Some of the best football in the UK´ - Watford´s Mazzarri hails Bournemouth|
|Senegal 2 Zimbabwe 0: Cisse´s men charge into quarter-finals|
|Rivaldo backs Luis Enrique to deliver more Barca success|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Eibar 0: Routine win earns quarter-final lead|
|Jesus will make Premier League history - Rivaldo|
|Adebayor: Arsenal are just Ozil and Sanchez|
|Algeria 1 Tunisia 2: Favourites on brink of elimination|
|Bayern keen to seal Coman deal as Rummenigge cools Gnabry interest|
|Pochettino has done his homework on Jesus as Spurs look to march on|
|Scrap offside? Premier League managers give Van Basten´s plans a cool reception|
|Coman ready for Bayern comeback, confirms Ancelotti|
|Pochettino upbeat despite six weeks out for Vertonghen, Lamela still a mystery|
|Cerezo defiant over Griezmann amid talk of Manchester United agreement|
|Robinho named in Brazil squad for Chapecoense fundraiser|
|Davies and Lookman aren´t the big men of Everton, warns Koeman|
|Ivory Coast v DR Congo: Dussyer demands champions show true strength|
|Replacing Robben and Ribery not easy - Hitzfeld|
|Yeray back in Athletic training after successful cancer surgery|
|Karanka targeting more Boro deals after Bamford swoop|
|Cavani: I am the ultimate finisher|
|Morocco v Togo: El Ahmadi hungry for success|
|Ancelotti denies Verratti approach|
|A-League Review: Cahill double sees Melbourne City sink Mariners|
|Manchester United very happy with Shaw, insists agent|
|Mertesacker extends Arsenal deal|
|Boost for Arsenal as key quartet returns to training|
|Will Jesus save Manchester City´s title bid? Guardiola´s new striker in Opta numbers|
|Tevez mobbed after touching down in Shanghai|
|Payet exit not inevitable - Bilic|
|Wenger: Arsenal don´t need Payet|
|Jesus wants Manchester City titles|
|Orsolini arrives for Juventus medical|
|Rivaldo backs Coutinho to join Neymar at Barcelona|
|No danger of Messi leaving Barcelona, says father|
|Augusto: I convinced Oscar to come to China|
|Madrid-bound Maradona visits Napoli training|
|Sevilla in no rush over Sampaoli talks despite Barcelona links|
|Cafu: Resurgent Brazil can challenge world´s best|
|Klopp thrilled with Coutinho|
|Manchester United replace Real Madrid as world´s richest club|
|Madrid squad annoyed by defeats - Zidane wants more energy after latest loss|
|Casemiro rues more misery for Madrid against Celta|
|´Job done, let´s go home´ - Klopp happy to avoid extra time with narrow Plymouth win|
|FA Cup Review: Southampton leave it late to beat Norwich|
|Real Madrid 1 Celta Vigo 2: Aspas and Jonny extend Madrid winless run|
|Plymouth Argyle 0 Liverpool 1: Rare Lucas goal sees Klopp´s men through|
|Manchester City in La La Land as Schalke toil underground|
|Cameroon 2 Guinea-Bissau 1: Ngadeu-Ngadjui completes comeback to send Broos´ men top|
|Monaco confirm signing of Ajax teenager Antonucci|
|Manchester United´s interest in Griezmann is unsurprising - Simeone|
|Bamford ends spell in Chelsea wilderness with Boro return|
|Louis the great - Luis Enrique explains his and Barca´s debt to Van Gaal|
|Gabon 1 Burkina Faso 1: Spot-on Aubameyang makes his point|
|PSG send Ikone on loan to Montpellier|
|Senegal v Zimbabwe: Cisse wants to live up to favourites tag|
|Ghana´s Rahman leaves AFCON with knee injury|
|Algeria v Tunisia: Mahrez demands improvement in crucial Group B clash|
|Dortmund forward Dembele hits out at Bundesliga refereeing|
|Robben hopes Alonso stays at Bayern amid retirement rumours|
|Asian champions Jeonbuk banned from 2017 Champions League|
|Rakitic still an important player for Barcelona - Luis Enrique|
|Jesus will develop quicker at City - Emerson|
|Always take the weather with you - Spanish snow blights CSKA´s training camp|
|Messi never gave Coach interview, claims father|
|Gotze questions critics but admits to falling short of expecations|
|´Conte can have our title´ - Ranieri wants Chelsea to win the Premier League|
|Tottenham reject Premier League, Bundesliga offers for Wimmer|
|Liverpool sell Ilori to Reading|
|Potential victims in football abuse probe surpasses 500|
|Bonaventura signs new AC Milan contract|
|Messi: Ronaldo has achieved great things|
|Koscielny: Wenger has built men at Arsenal|
|Messi vows to stay at Barcelona ´for as long as they want me´|
|Cafu adamant Neymar will become world´s best|
|I´m just taking a sabbatical - Van Gaal denies he´s retired|
|Not even Gerrard won Premier League - Buttner says he´s not a United flop|
|Samper ignored Wenger as Barca midfielder rejected Arsenal|
|Pleased Pioli wants more from Inter|
|Evergrande boss Scolari dismisses Turan links|
|Klopp seeks legal advice over Matip|
|Marseille complete Sanson move|