A bit of déjà vu for England fans at a major tournament. Where do we start? Every discussion that followed England’s latest short coming at an International tournament was almost exactly the same discussion we were having 2 years ago after defeat to Germany. Back then, some fans had a small excuse which was the disallowed goal. They argued had that goal stood, the game could’ve been extremely different and perhaps England could’ve won the game. Some others accepted the reality which was that England were a bunch of mediocre players lacking technical ability that is ruling world football. 2 years down the road, we can have the exact same discussion as England were found wanting on similar issues. The difference between the teams of 2010 and 2012 were; a depleted side, no time for new manager to train with the players and a lack of expectations from general public. The major similarity between these two teams was the lack of technical ability; loosely put, they can’t hold the ball for long.
Even though the match was decided on the finest of margins and this match report may have been slightly different, but the reality of the situation still remains the same. Had both Ashleys scored from their penalties, England might have been able to heavily tape the cracks and continue heading in the wrong direction. The issues for England go very deep into their football setup. Like many of us talked about, read and debated two years ago, English players are brought up and trained in a certain manner in the youth system. Their playing style is that of pass and move forward quickly. Little emphasis, if any, is given to actually retaining possession of the ball. The problem had been identified back then and a possible solution suggested was to shift from a full pitch with 11 players a-side to a small pitch with 6 a-side set up. What this change will do is, it will allow younger players who don’t have the strength to move up and down a full pitch. At a smaller pitch, these youngsters will have more time to play with the ball, rather than kicking it up the pitch. I recently read on twitter that these changes have finally been approved by FA to be implemented at the youth level. Moving to the analysis of the match, Italy were kept under control by England for all of 15 minutes during which England had two excellent chances to score. They squandered those chances and after that it was the Andrea Pirlo show. He showed everyone in the world what England lacks; a genuine playmaker who can control possession and with that control the tempo of the game. Gerard, though England’s best player for most games, were totally overshadowed by his counterpart, Pirlo, for much of the game. For once, I predicted the key battle of the match correctly in my preview. After 15 minutes of England’s (somewhat) dominance, Italy took over the game. What followed was a plethora of chances, most of which fell to Mario Balotelli. Italy failed to convert any of the chances and we headed into extra time as the game remained goal-less after 90 minutes. (I also predicted this score-line in my preview of this game.) What I didn’t predict was Italy getting so many chances and failing to make any of them count. The energy levels in both teams dropped in extra time, though, Italy still remained dominant. Penalties seemed inevitable heading into the 2nd half of extra time. And then my last prediction also came true, which was Gigi Buffon to save the crucial penalty.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Andrea Pirlo
There was never doubt over the quality of this veteran play maker. One of the best of his generation and one of the most cultured footballer in Europe. Even at his age, he has been the stand out player for Italy. Had Italy been blessed with a half decent striker instead of the extremely overrated Mario Balotelli the score line might have been embarrassing for England. I said it before, I’ll say it again, no one has a better long ball than Andrea Pirlo.
FLOP OF THE MATCH: Mario Balotelli
He had chance after chance after chance throughout the game. He really should’ve scored with at least one of them. Just like in the game against Spain he was given so much time and space in one of those many chances but failed to even test the keeper as defender recovered to block his shot. He continued to be played through by Pirlo but his finishing was extremely appalling. I don’t believe he is extremely talented, I believe he’s an average player over hyped by media because of his antics.
POST MATCH REACTION:
- Roy Hodgson, England manager
We tried our best. We worked as hard as we could. We survived physical problems – Scott Parker with his Achilles and Steven Gerrard with cramp – but whether we did enough to go through is a matter of opinion. There was never a question of playing for penalties
- Cesare Prandelli, Italy coach
I wasn’t surprised by tonight. I knew we could control the game. My worry was that we were allowing England too much space on the break – we could have been a bit cleverer in our build-up play. We tried to play football. We tried to draw England out; we tried to hit them quickly. I think if we’d scored in the 90 minutes it would have been an even better game.
- Steven Gerrard, England midfielder
I just feel for the players who, from day one since we met up have given absolutely everything, and today we’ve done the same. I thought this time in a penalty shoot-out we might have had that bit of luck we need, and it wasn’t to be.
FROM HERE ON:
- Italy: They face Germany in the 2nd Semi Final on Thursday. Not many people expected them to be amongst the four best teams in Europe, but they have earned it. They have been playing good football through out, even if some of the results went against their performances. A place in the final may be a bridge too far for the Italians though.
- England: Back to the drawing board, I suppose. Though, I don’t know how long we will keep having the same debate. England’s tactics, formation and style of play are all extremely outdated and a major overhaul has been due for a few years now. When Germany were facing the same issues 8 years ago, they were eliminated from group stage of Euro 2004. They went back and changed the youth system from the grass roots. We can see the results now. England need to learn from Germans example.
RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE MATCH: A lot of England supporters, journalists and even a few pseudo celebrities were saying that England have avoided what could’ve been a major embarrassing at the hands of the Germans, had they made it to the semis.
- PST: Italy tops England in shootout to reach Euro semis (prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com)
- England vs. Italy Live Updates: Euro 2012 Quarterfinal (huffingtonpost.com)
- Andrea Pirlo Panenka penalty for Italy stuns England (thesun.co.uk)
- Andrea Pirlo’s Panenka: The Penalty That Knocked England out of Euro 2012 (bleacherreport.com)