Gianluigi Buffon saved three out of five Uruguayan attempts in the shootout as Italy beat the South Americans 3-2 on penalties to finish third in the Confederations Cup on Sunday after the two sides defied energy-sapping heat in a 2-2 draw.
Italy, who had Riccardo Montolivo sent off 10 minutes from the end of extra time for a second bookable offense, twice led only for Edinson Cavani to pull Uruguay level each time.
Cavani missed two chances to complete a hat-trick and win the match for the Copa America champions deep into extra time.
Italy finished the match exhausted after playing extra time in tropical conditions for the second time in four days, following their semi-final defeat by Spain on penalties in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Thursday.
To make matters worse, Sunday’s match kicked off at 1pm with most of the pitch bathed in sun.
It was so hot that most of the seats in the sun were left empty with fans only taking their places after they had moved into the shade.
“It wasn’t easy to give all they had when they were running on empty,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said in a touchline interview.
Several matches at next year’s World Cup will also be played at 1pm in tropical venues, although governing body FIFA has rejected criticism and said that conditions are suitable for soccer.
Ironically, Italy and Uruguay may have inadvertently lent weight to FIFA’s argument by serving up an attractive, attacking game.
Buffon, who saved penalties from Diego Forlan, Martin Caceres and Walter Gargano, said: “We have shown great character because today it’s been really tough.”