June 21, 2007 / 9:46 PM / in 12 years

Soccer-Italy win Olympics place after Under-21 play-off

AMSTERDAM, June 21 (Reuters) - Italy won a ticket to the 2008 Beijing Olympics after beating Portugal 4-3 on penalties in their European Under-21 championship play-off in Nijmegen on Thursday, despite being reduced to 10 men from the 74th minute.

Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano saved a spot-kick by Portugal’s Manuel Fernandes then Antunes hit wide, sending the Italians through.

After a close-fought contest for much of the game Italy’s Giuseppe Rossi was dismissed after receiving a second yellow card for arguing with a match official, and having earlier been booked for a late challenge on Silvestre Varela.

However, Portugal failed to break the deadlock in extra-time.

European Under-21 semi-finalists qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing although England are excluded because the International Olympic Committee only counts Britain as a member.

As England were one of the teams to reach the semi-final, Portugal and Italy, who came third in groups A and B, played for a chance to join Belgium, Serbia and the Netherlands in China.

Italy have taken part in 14 Olympic tournaments and were bronze medallists in Athens three years ago.

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