RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Italy rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Japan and countryman Alberto Zaccheroni 4-3 Wednesday, earning a spot in the Confederations Cup semifinals.
First-half substitute Sebastian Giovinco scored the winner in the 86th minute of an entertaining match at the Arena Pernambuco, pounding home a cross from Claudio Marchisio.
After a dismal start for the Azzurri that saw Japan score twice in the opening 33 minutes, Daniele De Rossi pulled one back with a header in the 41st, Japan defender Atsuto Uchida scored an own-goal in the 50th and Mario Balotelli converted a penalty in the 52nd.
Japan had taken the lead with a penalty from Keisuke Honda in the 21st. Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa doubled the lead for Japan in the 33rd after a defensive error.
Shinji Okazaki later made it 3-3 in the 69th with a header.
The Azzurri moved level with Brazil on six points each at the top of Group A. Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 earlier Sunday and has now also advanced courtesy of Italy's win.
In the final round of group matches, Italy will face host Brazil in Salvador on Saturday and Japan meets Mexico in Belo Horizonte.
On a warm and humid evening with intermittent rain, the stadium was about three-quarters full with mainly neutral Brazilian fans, who were supporting Japan.
For the first half hour, Italy struggled with defensive errors while Japan controlled the majority of the play.
Zaccheroni, an Italian who took over as coach of Japan three years ago, seemed to know just how to contain Italy.
First, Mattia De Sciglio made a poor backpass to set up Honda's penalty. The pass forced goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to tackle Okazaki inside the area.
Buffon protested vehemently that it was a clean tackle but Argentine referee Diego Abal thought otherwise and pointed to the penalty spot then showed Buffon a yellow card for protests.
Italy has struggled with penalties in its last two matches, allowing Mexico an equalizer in its tournament opener and also a late penalty in its 2-2 draw against Haiti in a warm-up game last week.
Next, Giorgio Chiellini mistimed a clearing attempt on a bouncing ball inside the area and Kagawa took advantage by firing in an acrobatic strike.
The 24-year-old Kagawa is quickly becoming Japan's most talented player. In March, he became the first Asian to score a hat trick in the English Premier League when he led United to a 4-0 win over Norwich.
Italy didn't really threaten at all until De Rossi scored by meeting a corner from Andrea Pirlo with a textbook header.
However, De Rossi will miss Italy's next match after picking up his second yellow card in two games.
The goal energized Italy and Emanuele Giaccherini nearly drew the teams level when he shot off the post in first-half injury time.
The own-goal that made it 2-2 came when Giaccherini attempted to pass to a wide open Balotelli and Uchida intercepted and redirected it into his own net.
Italy went ahead 3-2 on Balotelli's penalty following a hand ball by Japan captain Makoto Hasebe.
Using his usual stutter-step technique, Balotelli easily fooled the Japan goalkeeper and improved to 18 for 18 on penalty kicks in his career, both with clubs and Italy.
Okazaki then beat Riccardo Montolivo for a header to make it 3-3.
After Japan hit the post and crossbar on succession in the 82nd, Giovinco pounded home the winner following a pass from Claudio Marchisio.
After Japan hit the post and crossbar on succession in the 82nd, it still wasn't over as Japan had a goal annulled for offside in the 89th.