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'
|Falcao nets as brilliant Monaco hit Montpellier for six|
|Guardiola pleads patience for injury ravaged Kompany|
|No hard feelings as Mourinho focuses on Chelsea task|
|Guardiola: I don´t want City to play like Barcelona|
|Valencia fans´ Alcacer anger normal - Luis Enrique|
|Neymar: Playing for Barca is easy now|
|EPFL terminates agreement with UEFA|
|Aguero keeps Argentina spot, Messi returns|
|Donnarumma eyes Milan captaincy|
|Napoli fans banned from Juve trip|
|Mertesacker hails ´hungry´ hat-trick hero Ozil|
|Suarez says Barcelona renewal talks ´really advanced´|
|Lack of European football can aid Liverpool´s title bid - Pulis|
|European breaks do not benefit Chelsea - Conte|
|Pardew backs Leicester to ´come through´ tough start|
|Pochettino one of ´the very best´ coaches, says Howe|
|Puel backs Manchester City for Premier League title|
|Abramovich and I were not friends - Mourinho|
|It was not mutual consent, I was sacked by Chelsea - Mourinho|
|Brazil recall Douglas Costa, Marcelo and Casemiro for Argentina clash|
|Luis Enrique: If Messi is at his best, nobody knows how to stop him|
|Ramos deserves more than he earns - Perez|
|Neymar renewal proves Barcelona team spirit, says Luis Enrique|
|Bravo mistakes will be on the front page - Guardiola|
|I would sign Modric as Scholes´ successor - Giggs|
|At last! Neymar signs new Barcelona contract|
|Ronaldo injury helped Portugal to Euro 2016 success, says Abidal|
|Ronaldo injury helped Portugal to Euro 2016 success, says Abidal|
|Rummenigge blasts Premier League clubs for ´kidnapping´|
|Prandelli awed by Messi but ´dreaming big´ against Barcelona|
|Guardiola fumes at Aguero rumours after Barcelona omission|
|Conte: Mourinho deserves maximum respect|
|Moses happy for Conte chance after Mourinho struggle|
|Garcia dreaming of glory with lowly Marseille|
|Dawson back as Phelan expects Hull reaction|
|Conte declares Terry fit to face Mourinho´s United|
|Pardew: Why would I leave Palace for England?|
|Montella wants San Siro to strike fear into Juventus|
|Guardiola criticism ´political´, says Del Bosque|
|Ancelotti ready to unleash rampant Robben once more|
|Chelsea in a good position - Mourinho|
|Tuchel heartened by Reus return|
|Allegri wary of AC Milan after Inter ´whack´|
|Koeman hopes for Barkley ´wake-up call´|
|Melbourne City 2 Perth Glory 3: Keogh hat-tricks decider thriller|
|Dybala delighted to stay at Juve after rejected offer|
|Hughes eager to test Hull fragility|
|Carrasco extends Atletico contract|
|Moyes: I am under pressure - just like Guardiola|
|Wenger talks up Arsenal´s title credentials|
|Fuchs signs new Leicester contract|
|Guardiola doesn´t communicate - Benatia|
|Magical Messi from another planet, says awestruck Digne|
|Wenger pleased to see Ozil on goal trail as talks continue|
|Evra hails old rival Suarez as ´the best number 9´|
|Ranieri: I feel like a hybrid car|
|Falcao returns for Monaco|
|De Bruyne defends Guardiola tactics|
|Del Bosque: I rejected €10m offer from China|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Pumas, Dallas reach QFs|
|Alli like ´wild horse´ - Pochettino|
|Nani hails ´special´ Messi|
|Serious knee injury sidelines Hull´s Odubajo for six months|
|Mkhitaryan edging closer to comeback - Mourinho|
|Klopp: United game good prep for West Brom|
|Pogba praises Rooney after resounding win|
|Under-fire De Boer driven by reaching knockout stages|
|Pogba no longer Premier League´s ´worst´ player, mocks Mourinho|
|Austria Vienna spoil Totti milestone|
|Manchester United 4 Fenerbahce 1: Van Persie nets on return as Pogba stars|
|Puel rues unfortunate Inter defeat|
|Inter 1 Southampton 0: Candreva seals fortunate win for Inter|
|Buffon rules out club management after retirement|
|Mazzarri ´very happy´ about Holebas-Capoue row|
|Non-European city could host Champions League final - UEFA|
|Bradley calls for players to reconnect with fans|
|Pochettino lauds ´fantastic´ Howe|
|Frankfurt´s Russ eyeing return after tumour disease all-clear|
|Karanka insists Middlesbrough will not sit back against Arsenal|
|Atletico Madrid cannot sign players in January after FIFA deal|
|Koeman calls for greater Lukaku support|
|Suarez: Two goals at the Bernabeu were my best|
|Pochettino delivers mixed news on injury front|
|Karius has Klopp´s confidence|
|Suarez hopes to finish his career at Barcelona|
|Burnley suffer Defour injury blow|
|Marseille confirm Garcia appointment|
|No concerns for Ranieri as Vardy, Morgan and King miss training|
|Tony Pulis is Tony Pulis - Klopp not expecting surprises from West Brom|
|Garcia´s Roma contract terminated amid Marseille reports|
|Injured Pique ruled out for three weeks|
|Moyes the builder will fix Sunderland, says chief exec Bain|
|Walcott impressed by the ´new, aggressive´ Ozil|
|Bilic eyes Ayew injury boost|
|Bonaventura on Icardi saga: I´ll wait until I´ve won something before writing a book!|
|Van Persie: I may still be at Man Utd if Ferguson was in charge|
|Emery wants more from PSG despite victory|
|Muller: Bayern enjoyed PSV rout|
|Barcelona lose Alba and Pique to injury|
|Nolito: Messi made the difference|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Pachuca edge through, Timbers out|
|Ozil has ´taste´ for goals - Wenger|
|Renard, Morocco prepared for AFCON test|
|Guardiola: Barca loss not my worst|
|Luis Enrique hails ´decisive´ Messi|
|Pulisic, Green & Morris´ youth movement delight USMNT legend Jones|
|Clinical Barca point the way for Sterling and City|
|Sarri: Napoli making life hard for ourselves|
|That´s life for goalkeepers - Ter Stegen on Bravo woe|
|Schubert delighted with mature Gladbach display|
|Gunes not getting carried away after Besiktas upset Napoli|
|Lucas praises PSG response to stuttering start|
|Luis Enrique happy to rule in game of errors|
|Vitoria: Benfica face three more finals|