Game in a sentence
A tense 0-0 draw goes past to extra time, in which England stuns the football world by losing (against Italy) on penalties in a tournament quarterfinal.
- England didn’t change much from their victory over Ukraine, except, marginally, the fact that Welbeck played in front of Rooney in more of a 4-4-1-1 than a 4-4-2. Otherwise, Milner out on the right, Young out on the left, Gerrard roaming forward in midfield, Parker supporting from the back. Go!
- Cesare Prandelli on other hand tinkered quite a bit, going with a diamond midfield: 4-1-2-1-2, with Mario Balotelli starting in place of Antonio Di Natale and Bonucci in for the injured (hammy) Giorgio Chiellini. The narrowness of the formation exposed Italy a bit in the early stages, as England found space in behind the midfield on more than one occasion in the early going.
- That allowed them a bit of space for Gerrard and Milner to exploit, the latter with a cross in the first five minutes that met the feet of Glen Johnson, who was unable to scoop the ball with power at Gigi Buffon. England started the match brightly, or at least above expectations.
- Still, Italy were the dominant side and managed a raking shot from Daniele De Rossi that pinged off the bar in the first three minutes. As they settled into the new formation, Italy managed on more than occasion to threaten the English goal by over-the-top passes to Mario Balotelli. The English back four was chronically incapable of playing the offside trap through much of the game, and if not for some lazy finishing (and stalwart defending on at least two occasions from Lescott and Terry), Italy would have headed to the second half ahead.
- As the game progressed however, some individual flaws on both teams became apparent. Balzaretti was over matched on more than one occasion defending in left back, although he improved greatly as the game went on. And Antonio Cassano’s link up play was often wayward, as was his shooting.
- For England, Wayne Rooney had a poor night, and looked tired. He was glistening with sweat even before the end of the first half, and often lacked for pace and incision with his crosses. Also poor: Ashley Young. Caught in possession, unable to connect his passes in the final third, he became an attacking liability. Welbeck did very well but looked isolated. Milner had a “better game.”
- As the game went on, England’s “two banks of four” reared its head, and any forward thinking movement slowly died away. Italy kept probing, and in the 57th minute, Hodgson threw the dice. Off went Welbeck and Milner—on came Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott. Which changed…
- …not much of anything. Carroll looked lively but had precious few moments to make it count. Meanwhile, the Italian midfield is clearly their strength in this tournament, Andrea Pirlo first among them. They hummed around the two banks of four. And so the game ground down to 90+3 minutes, and aside from a gilt-edged chance for Rooney to over head kick the ball in in the last minute, Italy had most of the opportunities at that point. Extra time! EURO 2012!
- By this point, England had no pretense of scoring, which means that Roy Hodgson must have dedicated a whole extra ten minutes to penalty practice. Meanwhile Nocerino thought he’d headed in the winner in the 114th minute of play, which was rightly called offside. Italy should have put this game away here with the pressure on the England final third, but…
- Penalties! And—you guessed it!—England lost. Despite Montolivo missing his first penalty completely, Ashleys Young and Cole missed, and Italy were through to the semifinal against Germany. The highlight of the entire game? Andrea Pirlo’s cool-as-you-like Panenka penalty. It was well-deserved for Italy to go through, who were far more positive on the night, and will hopefully get enough rest to make a contest out of it against Germany. Pirlo’s outstanding year continues.
1. Andrea Pirlo
2. Federico Balzaretti
3. Steven Gerrard