Italy 0-0 England (Italy win 4-2 on penalties)
A just result, though it took a very long time to get there.
England just were not interested in winning this game outright, especially after the half time break. Rooney was anonymous, as was Welbeck. Young had a poor game, and Carroll was uninspiring once he came on. England had no attacking options playing at full tilt out there, and it told in the way the game shaped up.
After half time, Roy Hodgson and his side were playing for penalties, simple as. It was shocking to see this England team, which showcases a number of players capable of good attacking football, reduceing themselves to tactics that Trapattoni would be proud of. Italy’s defence had little trouble dealing with the English forward line. The midfield battle was largely a non-event, with Gerrard and Parker operating just in front of the English backline. That left Pirlo to run the show with ease, and he was easily Italy’s best player.
England’s tactics depended heavily on their defence, which was severly lacking at times, offering Italy a host of opportunities with which to try and grab a goal. The English were lucky that so many Italians looked hapless in front of goal, with Balotelli being especially guilty. He was a liability out there tonight, shooting when he should pass and missing when he should score.
Italy pressed on and on, but their lack of form upfront meant that England held them. Extra time was a one team show, as England just defended and stepped off. It was such a surprise to see England revert to such tactics, to exhibit a complete and utter lack of interest in taking any sort of risk. Ashley Cole was off at left back and Cassano was having an easy time of it against him, making his substitution all the more baffling (along with Balotelli staying on the pitch). For England’s part, a player like Henderson was not the answer to what was going on.
So many English players, not just today but throughout the tournament, have failed to perform. Rooney, Gerrard, Milner and Young just were not up to their usual standard. Going all the way to penalties flattered England, and the Italians will be kicking themselves that it took that long.
On the penalties themselves, Young placed too much emphasis on power and Cole’s was too slow to greatly trouble Buffon. Pirlo’s was a thing of beauty and bravado, as the Italian maestro made a fool of Joe Hart, the young England keeper more concerned with trying to psyche the penalty takers out then actually stop shots. Italy won the mental battle, and England lost yet another shoot-out.
England can have no complaints. This was the first tournament in my memory where the typical hype machine for the Lions has not taken place, so this exit will not be as bitterly received as it might usually have been. Hodgson’s real time as England manager starts now, and they have a degree of restructuring to accomplish. Hodgson, if he keeps England playing like this, is not going to last long.
Italy move on to a semi-final with Germany. Few expected the Blues to get this far, and Germany should be more then capable of dealing with them, being younger, fitter, and just overall better. More time to rest between games too. Italy have done very well to become part of the last four, but their time is about to run out.
All of my quarter final predictions were correct, so yay me I guess. For the semis I think it will be:
Spain over Portugal
Germany over Italy