Story by Ryan Howden
It seems a tale we should expect from England now, defeat in the Quarter Final’s of a major tournament. All in all Italy were the better team, but for twenty minutes at the start of the game, twenty great minutes we looked like a team willing to take the game to them. Then the Italians or more accurately Andrea Pirlo turned it up a notch.
If any aspiring midfielder’s are reading this, ignore David Silva, ignore Ozil and watch Pirlo’s performance from last night where he was simply magical. He dominated the centre of the field and nearly all of Italy’s attacks seemed to flow through him.
England though can be proud of an organised and tenacious defensive display in which John Terry was simply outstanding, blocking shot after shot. Defending though cannot win you a game and the few attacking moves England had they did not take advantage of, the best chance came when Glen Johnson found himself in the Italian box with the ball at his feet but he scooped his shot losing the power need to beat the keeper.
Italy had good chances of their own, De Rossi’s stunning volley early on had Hart beaten before it ricocheted off the post and could have easily scored as Pirlo fed him in behind the English defence with a stunning pass, but he lacked the sharpness to really get on the end of it.
The passing stats really sum up England’s day at the office, Cole was England’s highest passer, with 44 whereas Italy had Pirlo on 131 and Montolivo on 94. Italy as such dictated the game and England were unable to get a foothold to move forward and attack. England were forced to repulse wave after wave of Italian attacks until late in extra time when Nocerino appeared to have broken the deadlock but his goal was ruled offside.
So it was to penalties the game went, Gerrard and Rooney converted theirs and when Riccardo Montolivo missed England seemed to have some hope at last, but Pirlo’s brilliant chipped spot-kick after Ashley Young’s thundered back off the bar set things all square.
Ashley Cole then stepped up and produced a poor penalty to strike at a keeper of Gianluigi Buffon’s quality and it was rightly saved. Alessandro Diamanti struck the final blow to set Italy up with a semi-final tie with Germany. For England we must regroup and prepare for the World Cup in 2014.