Monday, 25 June 2012

EURO 2012 Quarter-final: England v Italy

                  Gerrard, 2-PSO-4 Balotelli, Pirlo, 
                     Rooney              Nocerino, Diamanti

England start off in a 4-4-1-1 shape, starting 11:
GK: Hart  LB: Cole, CB: Lescott,  CB : Terry,   RB Johnson, RM: Milner,
CM: Parker, CM: Gerrard,  LM: Young, Ss: Rooney,  ST: Welbeck.
SUBS USEDWelbeck/Carroll 60  Milner/Walcott61 Parker/Henderson 94   
Italy start off in a 4-3-1-2 shape, starting 11:
GK: Buffon,  RB: Abate, CB: Bonucci, CB:Barzagil,  LB: Balzaretti, DPM: Pirlo, LCM: De Rossi, RCM: Marchisio, False 10: Montolivo  ST: Balotelli ST: Cassano
SUBS USED:  Cassano/Diamanti 78  De Rossi/Nocerino 80 Abate/Maggio 91

A Little look:
Italy go into this quarter-final losing only two out of nine attempts, while England have only won three out of ten and, more significantly, they have only beaten Italy once in nine tries before today. England start with the same starting eleven that beat Ukraine. Italy will keep the same formation as in the Ireland game, although they were without Chiellini who has picked up an injury, so his Juvenutus team-mate Bonucci steps in, along with Motta giving his place up to Montolivo over fitness issues.
"It's a game of two half's" and after inventing football, England have taken a back seat on the development of the game tactically. Maybe their biggest regret is making it a two half game, as they only ever turn up for the first. Here, there and everywhere; that's where Italy were better in this game; they made over double the passes of England today, with 744 completed out of 833 (89%) compared to England's lowly 269 from 364 (74%). The evidence is made stronger by the fact that Montolivo made the same amount of passes in the attacking third (39) as the top three England players combined. England were always going to give up possession, and while that's not a bad thing if you counter well,

England never did- only getting one shot on target, and that was in the fifth minute. Italy, on the other hand, when they did go deep, used their first few passes out of defense a lot better, either catching England's early high line out with a long ball to Balotill- who had the beating of the sloppy Terry- or they built it up at their own pace, knowing that with the full backs making the pitch as big as possible and outnumbering England in the middle, they could dictate when they chose to pull the trigger. It was in the manner of the way England dropped off and got dragged into being too narrow that showed who the better team was tactically. England tried to adjust to attempt to be a danger on the counter with the inclusion of Carroll and Walcott. Carroll's best link up was with Hart, who ended up lumping the ball up field in his direction. He did help out defensively, but didn't add anything going forward as he was was sloppy in his play. The additions of Diamanti and Nocerino only seemed to add to Italy's attacking threat. This was a Chelsea style performance by England, but this time the better team got their reward. Italy, just like Barcelona and Bayern Munich, rather than being denied goal-scoring opportunities, squandered more chances than they would care to remember and, unlike Chelsea, England didn't capitalise from the rare chances that they created. 

This side of England's game was not great, and when you can't keep the ball, you invite extra pressure. This showed at the Euro's, with Hart making more saves than any other keeper, along with England's back line not catching anyone offside in the whole tournament. The defensive line of England was high to start with, although Terry would have more chance of catching an STD from one of the WAGs then any attacking player running in behind. Sensing the danger, England dropped back as the game went on and this only invited a different, but more relentless, pressure. Glen Johnson attacked well for the first twenty-five minutes or so, he had England's only shot-on-target, which drew out a great stop from Buffon. Johnson did well beating his man, and when he did cross, he did it well, it's just when it came to the defensive side that he lacked. Cole did the simple things right and played little balls off, maybe he should have tried to bring the ball out more, however he did have a lot to deal with down his side. Lescott was most probably England's best defender today. Balzareti did his job perfectly today, he played the right passes, sticking out wide and constantly being a threat on the outside. He also didn't leave his defensive duties and, when called on, tackled well. Abate added the same out ball but stayed a little deeper.

In the middle:
Pirlo didn't just run the show; he set the show and stole it.  He gave a vintage performance in his art. Pirlo showed why they call him the "architetto" (the architect), as he was the one who saw the big picture. Not only was he always available to receive the ball, he also made 114 out of 131 passes, and it's in the manner of his passing that caught the eye; he was switching play and making key passes. In a tight, compact defence he fashioned out six clear chances for his team. He also chased back when needed, and made a couple of good tackles. The way Pirlo found room to showcace his talent, once again, was a delight, although this was made easier by Rooney not doing his job and half-heartedly closing down Pirlo. De Rossi had a great shot early on, the technique was sublime and it's a shame that it didn't go in as it was worth winning any match, and maybe would have been a better fitting to the last of the one-sided games in this tournament knock out stage, we hope. Marchisio and De Rossi did well in the box-to-box role they played, their presence meant that the England wide players were dragged inside, which in turn nullified England's escape route for the counter. Montolivo played an important role today, dropping off of the front two and making late runs into the box. He floated around well between the lines, along with making sure he was close to the play to either win back the ball or play a quick ball in. Gerrard only made 32 passes today, completing 75%. His crossing also let him down, as he did not complete one successful cross all game, spending nigh-on the full match in his own half. Parker was the player to be found furthest forward, and he made two more shots than Gerrard putting him on two, however Gerrard did work hard defensively, tackling well and making a few good interceptions.

Up Top:
Rooney had a bad game and, even with dropping deep, just didn't get on the ball. There were a couple of good bits of play from him and Welbeck, but nowhere near enough quality for a game of this stature. Welbeck worked hard to win the ball back in his first major competition, and will be disappointed that he got taken off instead of Rooney. Both Italian strikers were far too wasteful, with Balotelli having the clearer of the chances due to his movement today being excellent. Cassano was a little bit more forceful with his shooting, taking them all from outside the box, with half of them being well blocked by the England defence. The two strikers for Italy worked well together, splitting the England centre backs when they were playing a high line. One would move to the channel while the other filled the gap, allowing the full back on the opposite side space to receive the ball.

Penalty shoot out: 
Joe Hart was his cocky self during the penalty shoot-out, trying his best to psych out the taker. Up stepped Balotelli, and both nations held their breath. As cool as you like, he made no mistake and his penalty was spot on, along with Gerrard's and Rooney's. Montolivo however, felt the pressure. Hart went the right way, although didn't need to, as it was a poor penalty and went wide of the goal. It was two one to England at that time, but then the star of the show, Pirlo, gave us the encore his performance deserved, showing these men of steel what it really means; in a nonchalant style, he coolly chipped the ball into the centre of the goal. Suddenly, Hart wasn't so cocky, and England must have felt that Pirlo had emptied the canon of shooters who remained. Young just didn't know how to follow it up, and smashed the ball onto the cross bar. Then, Cole took his chance and Buffon guessed the right way, and it was at that point that England knew it was all over. England will be wondering if they can ever win on penalties when taken outside of home comforts. It did however, keep their most consistent record up; of only having won one penalty shoot out from seven now, and whilst Italy are not much better with three out of seven, all of their wins came in and after 2006, so they have clearly turned a corner, one which last time led them to the World Cup. They will be hoping for more of the same this time around.

Full time:
Italy will miss Maggio for the game against Germany but will hope Chiellini, along with Motta, can reach the right level of fitness to be a part of the mission. Italy will feel Germany are on the dealer's side, with the deal they got having two days less preparation for the game, and the extra time wouldn't have helped. They will know deep down that this is a hand you go all in for, with no excuses, they just have to put it all on the table and let the chips fall where they may.

England was all about set pieces in this year's European Championships; three of their five goals came from set piece plays, so I guess it was fitting that they would go out on themHodgson, who is yet to taste defeat in open play, will be keen to give experience to the young and the fearless on route to Brazil. He was right in the way he set the team up with his limited time, as a defensive tactic is a good call; it's what Mourinho did at Chelsea, and Mancini with Manchester City, in the early days. Now though, is the time for change. England should not blame the players who missed their spot kicks, as the England team did well considering the injuries and the time restrictions placed on the Manager and the nation. England have two years to get things going in the right direction after this learning curve, and with the right kind of attitude, mixed with the Premiership becoming more tactical, and with the young talent coming through, England are in a better position than they have ever been to making a change for the good of football. Seeing an England team playing tactical, winning football that entertains, may not be too far away.
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