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'
|Expert urges ´careful´ approach over match-fixing|
|Ronaldo returns to Real Madrid squad|
|Pardew warns of ´dangerous´ Newcastle|
|Barker appointed Portsmouth boss|
|Assaidi remains hopeful of Liverpool future|
|Bayern will need to be at their best, says Kroos|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Barcelona v Celtic|
|Tricky run does not concern Arsenal, Mertesacker insists|
|Blackburn striker Campbell arrested in match-fixing probe|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Milan v Ajax|
|Cahill: Chelsea have to stop mistakes|
|Paranaense slam ´barbaric events´ in Vasco clash|
|Rodgers endorses Coutinho´s World Cup chances|
|Liga MX Wrap: Leon, America into final|
|Ranieri delighted with narrow win|
|Colombia Primera A Wrap: Atletico Nacional win again|
|Uruguay Primera Division Wrap: Tight title race continues|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Wrap: Bolivar stay top|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Universidad Catolica claim top spot|
|Ecuador Primera A Wrap: Champions Emelec finish with a win|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Osasuna, Espanyol claim comeback draws|
|Barkley can be England´s ´diamond´, says Martinez|
|Ligue 1 Wrap: Monaco into second with win, Lille beaten|
|Mazzarri adamant Inter were denied ´clear´ penalty|
|Brazil Serie A Wrap: Fluminense, Vasco relegated as violence mars final weekend|
|Serie A Wrap: Roma back on track, Inter held at home|
|Primeira Liga Wrap: Sporting move top, Olhanense lose again|
|Serie A: Inter 3 Parma 3|
|Peru Primera Division: Real Garcilaso 3 Universitario 2|
|Fan clashes mar Brazilian league fixture|
|Bundesliga Wrap: Wolfsburg win again, Hertha up to seventh|
|Wenger praises Everton performance|
|Martinez delighted with Everton display|
|Eredivisie Wrap: Feyenoord stay in touch with top three, Groningen lose at home|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Benfica v Paris Saint-Germain|
|Premier League: Arsenal 1 Everton 1|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Bayern Munich v Manchester City|
|Meulensteen confident over Berbatov future|
|Arsenal to face Tottenham in FA Cup third round|
|Lambert disappointed with refereeing decisions|
|Russian Premier League Wrap: Zenit back on top, Spartak close the gap|
|Leonardo: PSG tried to sign Ronaldo|
|Cocu defiant despite heavy PSV defeat|
|Premier League: Fulham 2 Aston Villa 0|
|Garcia delighted as Roma back on form|
|Paulinho hails Tottenham resilience|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Manchester United v Shakhtar Donetsk|
|Hughes sees Stoke progression|
|Marcelo tips Kaka for FIFA World Cup recall|
|Pochettino sticks to attacking philosophy|
|Milner bemoans City travel sickness|
|Laudrup looking for striker boost|
|Juve will not miss Pirlo, says Mancini|
|Poyet has own goal concerns|
|Coloccini: We have learnt from our mistakes|
|Buffon fires Hart a World Cup warning|
|Hughton urges Hooper service|
|Hyypia hails ´important´ win over Dortmund|
|Clarke frustrated with penalty decision|
|Moyes confident in Manchester United squad|
|Mourinho: Chelsea are in trouble|
|Six arrested in new match-fixing probe|
|A-League: Melbourne Victory 1 Newcastle Jets 2|
|Allardyce furious with Nolan indiscipline|
|Keller: Korb deserved a red card|
|Balotelli still confident despite late miss|
|Benitez bemoans errors, Guidolin thrilled with draw|
|No worries for Madrid after Copa del Rey draw|
|Son expected goal and victory against Dortmund|
|Paraguay Division Profesional Wrap: Cerro Porteno finish Clausura unbeaten|
|MLS Cup: Sporting Kansas City 1 Real Salt Lake 1 (7-6 on pens)|
|Guardiola thrilled with Bayern´s complete performance|
|Garcia focused on attractive football, Roma´s fans - not Juve|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Real held, holders Atletico all but through|
|Primeira Liga Wrap: Martinez sends Porto top, Estoril see off Pacos|
|Ligue 1 wrap: Five-star PSG back on track, Lorient march on|
|Eredivisie Wrap: Top three all win, RKC draw|
|Klopp confirms hospital visits for Bender, Sahin|
|Serie A Wrap: Napoli, Milan both held|
|Poyet disappointed by second-half performance|
|Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern, Leverkusen secure wins|
|Balotelli calls for better focus from Milan|
|Allegri blasts Milan after Livorno draw|
|Villas-Boas pleased with efficient Tottenham|
|Scottish Premiership Wrap: No winning start for Inverness boss, Dundee United go third|
|Blanc pleased with PSG response|
|Marseille sack Baup|
|Clarke rues missed chances in West Brom defeat|
|Premier League: Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2|
|Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund 0 Bayer Leverkusen 1|
|Pulis predicts tricky December for Palace|
|Hughes praises Assiadi impact|
|Ribery glad to be back as Bayern run riot|
|Mackay rues Cardiff´s wastefulness|
|Pellegrini praises Southampton display|
|Chelsea lack killer instinct, Mourinho laments|
|Rodgers lauds prolific Suarez|
|Lallana: Southampton deserved to win|
|Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain 5 Sochaux 0|
|Football League Wrap: Notts County, Cheltenham Town clinch wins|
|Championship Wrap: Burnley go top, Derby win fifth in a row|
|Premier League: Liverpool 4 West Ham 1|
|Premier League: Crystal Palace 2 Cardiff City 0|
|Premier League: Stoke City 3 Chelsea 2|
|Premier League: Southampton 1 Manchester City 1|
|Bundesliga: Werder Bremen 0 Bayern Munich 7|
|Moyes confident on United prospects|
|Pardew: Old Trafford win among the best of my Newcastle career|
|FIFA announce World Cup fixture changes|
|Premier League: Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 1|
|Escriba plays down Elche hopes|
|Lambert wary of Meulensteen effect|
|A-League Wrap: Kewell´s Heart held, Mariners down Sydney|
|J.League Wrap: Sanfrecce defend title, Marinos beaten|
|Courbis set for Montpellier job|
|Rosler appointed Wigan manager|
|Poyet: Uruguay will beat England|
|Ferdinand unsure over Moyes´ late selection tactic|
|Win shows squad depth, says Conte|
|Blanc denies PSG defeat was inevitable|
|Barcelona ´obliged to win´, says Martino|
|Unbeaten Bayern streak doesn´t faze Guardiola|
|Gilardino Toronto-bound as Italian MLS legion grows|
|Manaus stadium built for the heat, says sports secretary|
|Valcke: USA, England in tough groups|
|Ranieri admires lowly Ajaccio|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Barcelona arrest deficit to beat third-tier Cartagena|
|Wenger dismisses complacency fears|