England 0-0 Italy (2-4 on pens): England run out of steam
So once again, England’s luck ran out when it came to penalties, the two Ashley’s Young and Cole joining the long list of players whose names are synonymous with shoot out agony.
Yet for much for the preceding two hours it looked as if fate was on their side as Italy squandered chance after chance. Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Diamanti both hit the post, while the former also missed a sitter with the goal at his mercy less than six yards out. Riccardo Montolivo, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Nocerino all went close as Italy had 31 shots, of which 18 were on target. Even when they did get the ball in the back of the net six minutes from the end of extra time Antonio Nocerino’s header was – rightly - was judged offside.
By contrast, England had just four shots on target and so when referee Pedro Proenca blew for full time many could be forgiven for thinking that maybe an English victory was written in the stars. After all, he was in charge of Chelsea’s famous shoot out win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. It wasn’t to be however and England’s fans were left to wonder what might have been and why the team can’t make an impact on the major stage.
Italy started the brighter De Rossi’s superb 30-yard volley in the second minute had Joe Hart well beaten but rebounded of the left-hand upright. It was all Italy at that point, but before five minutes were showing on the stadium clock Glenn Johnson of all people nearly gave England the lead but he scooped his shot straight at Gianluigi Buffon who gratefully plucked the ball out of the air. The chance seemed to settle a nervy England and the game then settled into the expected pattern with the Italians dominating possession however although they had more shots than England it was England who had the better early chances with both Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck going close.
It was in the aftermath of these attacks that England looked their weakest, with their defensive shape stretched allowing Andrea Pirlo, pulling Italy’s string in midfield, to play long high passes behind John Terry and Joleon Lescott for Mario Balotelli to run on to. The focus of so much attention in the build-up to the game, the Manchester City striker was Italy’s most potent threat going close with several half-chances.
Hodgson was the first coach to make a switch adding an injection of pace from Theo Walcott and height from Andy Carroll with half an hour to go but Italy were the overwhelmingly better side in the second half, a fact supported by the stats which showed they had had 23 shots to England’s eight over the first 90 minutes. They also had the lion’s share of possession with England regularly giving the ball away, however they couldn’t find a way past England’s defence with all four and Joe Hart in impressive form. It was a pattern that would repeat itself in a punishing extra 30 minutes.
The Italians will not be grateful for as they now face a semi-final on Thursday against a German side who have had two days extra rest after breezing past Greece. However, they will no doubt rise to the challenge, after all they always do when their domestic game is beset by a corruption scandal.
England (4-4-2): Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner (Walcott 61), Gerrard, Parker (Henderson 90+4), Young; Rooney, Welbeck (Carroll 61).
Italy (4-4-2): Buffon; Abate (Maggio 90), Barzagli, Bonucci, Balzaretti; Marchisio, De Rossi (Nocerino 80), Pirlo, Montolivo; Balotelli, Cassano (Diamanti 77).
Did you know… This was only the second game England had lost with Joe Hart in the team.
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