MONTPELLIER: Juventus striker Simone Zaza has pleaded for leniency from angry social media users after a crucial but comical penalty miss in a Euro 2016 quarter-final shootout with Germany.
“What happened will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Zaza said in a post on his Instagram account.
“It was a crucial moment for the team, and for me, and I failed. Once again, I’m sorry.”
Zaza avoided the fate of teammate Graziano Pelle, whose girlfriend responded to his penalty miss for the Azzurri by calling him a “coglione” (asshole).
But three days after Italy’s 6-5 loss to Germany in Bordeaux, the 25-year-old Zaza’s dancing lead-up to his penalty miss is still riling fans angry at Italy’s absence from the semi-finals.
Italy, the beaten 2012 finalists, had upset predictions by winning their European Championship group and toppling holders Spain 2-0 in the last-16 to set up a quarter-final clash with Germany.
With the match 1-1 after extra-time, it took a penalty shootout to decide who goes into a semi-final match-up with hosts France on Thursday.
Zaza was not the only player to miss the target during an epic 18-kick shootout.
But his attempt drew the most ridicule. As he stepped up to try and beat Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Zaza started jogging on his tiptoes before blazing the ball over the crossbar.
Social media users were quick to react with a series of videos showing people and animals appearing to do the “Zaza dance” going online.
Zaza said: “I take responsibility, as I always have, and move forward, knowing that we made Italy proud.
“I would like to thank all the people who have offered support after this incident. They know I didn’t mean to mess up like I did.”
One fan fighting Zaza’s corner was his girlfriend, social media blogger Chiara Biasi.
She hit out at a fan who criticised Zaza on Twitter, saying: “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you’ve done in your life, but I judge you just like you’re judging Simone.
“YOU ARE TOTALLY IGNORANT. Obviously in your life you’ve never made a mistake, obviously you would have scored that goal from the comfort of your couch?”
Pelle’s girlfriend was not quite as supportive.
After his miss, Italian television pictures showed her turning to a friend in the stadium and saying: “I knew it… he’s an asshole.”