Euro 2012 was the first tournament for the new manager Roy Hodgson and with a weak England side the quarter finals were just one step too far. England faced Italy who looked the stronger side for the whole game and it was obvious that technically they were the far superior team. However when England were announced to be playing Italy England fans were delighted as the game seemed to be nothing compared with the daunting prospect of Spain. With Rooney back and the team playing better than expected did England hope to win?
The first 20 minutes was positive and if it wasn’t for the wastefulness of Glen Johnson England would have been ahead. The rest of the half and the game was dominated by the Italians leaving England rueing their missed opportunities. England just couldn’t stop Italy’s midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo who would pick up the ball in deep midfield and spray delightful balls into his team mate’s path. The 33-year-old was released from Ac Milan before moving to Turin to play for Juventas. Whilst at Juve they won the league comfortably without being beaten and he was one of the stars. The midfielder can play every pass there is in the game and therefore England simply found him unplayable. With the power of Mario Ballotelli up front and the pace of Cassano supporting him the biggest surprise of all was that at full-time the score was still 0-0. Extra time was no different with Italy having practically 100% of possession whilst England decided to sit back with two banks of four. However, credit given where credit is due, the two centre backs John Terry and Joleon Lescott defended like bulldogs, saving England countless numbers of times with heroic blocks. In the 127th minute Italy thought they had finally got the lead when substitute Diamanti’s cross was headed in by the second substitute Noccerini. However the goal was rightly disallowed for off side and the dreaded penalties commenced.
England went first with Gerrard who emphatically buried his penalty. 1- 0 England. Up for Italy was the penalty expert Mario Ballotelli who has never missed from the spot before. Joe Hart tried to psyche him out but it was no good as he calmly slotted into the bottom corner. 1-1.England had their moment when Rooney’s converted penalty was followed up the Italian midfielder Riccardo Montolivo smashing his penalty well wide. The Florentine was devastated and held his head in his hands whilst the the momentum was suddenly with England. Next was Pirlo. There was something about the way he walked up to take that penalty that made people expect something special. The Italian player ran up to the ball with purpose as if to smash it fooling the goal keeper and the hundreds of thousands watching. Instead he chipped the ball expertly into the back of the net leaving an embarrassed Joe Hart wanting to vanish. The pendulum had swung in Italy’s favour.
The goal seemed to knock England’s confidence consequently causing Ashley Cole and Young to both miss their penalties. Diamanti killed off England with the winning penalty causing the Italian players to run with joy towards their fans. It was same old same old England again as they slumped out of another major championship on penalties. However this time England can look towards the next world cup in Rio De Genero with a young squad full of promising, and now more experienced bunch of youngsters.