Italy coach Cesare Prandelli praised his team’s character after they claimed third place at the Confederations Cup on Sunday.
Edinson Cavani’s brace helped Uruguay draw 2-2 with Italy after 120 minutes, but Gianluigi Buffon was the hero as Prandelli’s men won the shootout 3-2.
Prandelli hailed his players for their efforts after a long season and said their spirit was the key to their fine run in Brazil.
“We deserve this third-place finish because we have played well during the tournament and have improved throughout the competition,” he said.
“We played extremely well in the first half, but having played two days we had substantial problems.
“It was the first time in my career that I didn’t know what to do as I had eight players on the pitch asking to be substituted. This made it quite difficult.
“The most important aspect of this team is the character we showed, we wanted to stay in the game, and suffered a reasonable amount in order to achieve this.
“We were rewarded with the win on penalties, which is always a little bit of a lottery.”
Buffon, who was unable to save a penalty in Italy’s shootout loss to Spain in the semi-finals, kept out spot-kicks from Diego Forlan, Martin Caceres and Walter Gargano.
He was delighted to contribute to the victory and said Italy needed to keep their strong squad together ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
“It is certainly disappointing that I was not able to save a penalty against Spain,” Buffon said.
“However, I am extremely happy to have had the chance to enjoy this moment with some fantastic team-mates and have been through the experience of this tournament with a great group.
“We are a very tight-knit group of players and I think this one of our strengths.
“Mr Prandelli has understood this, we (the players) have understood this and I believe those close to us have as well.
“Now, we will do all we can to ensure this group remains as strong as it is now, because having 23 players like ours available to you is a great luxury and must be protected.”