Mesut Oezil has been a shadow, Andrea Pirlo a giant
Mesut Oezil is no Andrea Pirlo: This Euro is all about how Andrea Pirlo got his groove back on. The 2010 World Cup was all about how Pirlo was finished and Oezil was the superstar of the new generation. Forward two years, Pirlo made himself critical to Juve’s success and in this Euro showed his mesmerizing mastery over the ball as he fed Italy’s attack with laser like precision and executed a panenka as a perfect coda. Oezil was not able to capitalize on his Real Madrid form as he failed to impose his undoubted talent on this team, at times looking very peripheral and disconnected. He was suitably laconic.
The battle of the Mario’s was an unequal contest: Balotelli was a force of nature when it counted as Gomez faded. Jogi Low brought back the Bayern Munich striker for this match with every probability he would add to his tally of three goals. Before the England match, the debate was whether Balotelli would even begin as Cesare Prandelli sought to bring his volatile striker to book. It did not happen and Balotelli made a right nuisance of himself in front of goal and only wayward shooting and some excellent defending kept England from harm. He was on target against the Germans helped by some inept defending. At the other end a Juve led defense yielded no quarter and Gomez was subbed off for Klose.
Mat Hummels is no John Terry: Antonio Cassano casting aside Hummels like a used dishrag for Balotelli’s first goal. Philipp Lahm pumping his legs in a futile chase to get to Balotelli before the City striker unleashed his shot. It was abject defending. The previous match saw Terry turning in a phenomenal performance when he became the LeBron James of blocked shots hurling his body in front of Cassano and Balotelli to bring off some spectacular saves as England kept their flag flying for 120 minutes through sheer defensive will. The Germans would have been well served channeling some of Terry’s spirit.
This German side has talent, but its vanilla: Where is that famous never say die attitude? We used to hate the Germans before because they would play the same boring football for 90 minutes and refuse to lose. Andreas Brehme, Lothar Mattheus, and Rudi Voller, all part of the 1990 World Cup winning team. Voller and Frank Rijkaard ejected for spitting at each other. Then seeing England off on penalties in the semi-finals before beating Argentina in the in one of the most degrading finals. Now we love them to death because they are the antithesis of Spain, the old Germany. Except they seem to be the old Spain; the bottlers of yore, a bunch of Morientes’s bound in scotch tape. It’s all tied to austerity somehow and Angela Merkel is to blame.
Germany chose a dynasty, Italy chose experience: Italy dismissed as old in the 2010 World Cup did not exactly jettison age when it came to picking this Euro squad. Andrea Pirlo: 33 years of age, Antonio De Natale: 34 years of age, Gianluigi Buffon: 34 years of age. The priority was clear. To wipe out the bitter memories of the World Cup. An average age of 28 years, fully five years older than the German squad. The youngest in this competition, a team with an eye to the future, giddy in its multiculturalism. The Germans can put winning on hold because of their youth but for a number of Italians this was the last out. They looked hungrier, more engaged, and scrapped hard as the underdogs.