Monday, 25 June 2012

Italy 0 - 0 England

So, as I predicted before the tournament began, England fell at the last eight.  I've also explained previously why that's not a very bold bet.  In the end, the old failings doomed us; an inability to keep possession or take penalties.

As for the game itself, few of England's players performed well.  Rooney looked consistently off the pace and lacking match practice (as he is).  Young had another bad game to round out a bad tournament for him.  Gerrard has had a good tournament, but didn't do much tonight.  England's back five did manage to show up.  Johnson in particular put in another excellent performance to justify his place in the team, and had probably England's best chance of the match early in the first half.

For Italy, Pirlo was unsurprisingly the maestro, pulling all the strings.  Balotelli was unpredictable, but ultimately ineffectual.

The problem I find is that as much as I don't expect England to win games like this, I do hope that they might.  And that hope, that stake makes watching them play very tense.  Indeed, I had to pass on the shoot out, and just look up the result later!

Down to the last four teams, there are two interesting semi-finals to come.  Portugal against Spain is a bit of a tricky one for me.  As an Englishman, my natural intention is to support the underdog, Portugal; but Spain are so beautiful with the ball, and Cristiano Ronaldo so unlikeable, that Spain become appealing.  As for who I think will win, while Portugal are not a one-man team, against opponents of Spain's quality Ronaldo will have to be at his best.  I think this might be a bit too much for him, and I expect Spain to continue their serene stroll to the final.

Germany against Italy is simpler for me to pick sides: Germany, and not because Italy knocked England out.  I've long felt that Germany are England done right at international level; England can probably never play like the Spanish or the Italians, but we could in principle play like the Germans.  Also, this German team is so exciting to watch.  The one thing to consider is that Germany have never beaten Italy at a tournament finals, and have lost all the knock out games between the two of them.  Still, I think Italy will have to be a lot more clinical than they have been so far; if they miss as many chances against Germany as they did against England, they will go out.

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