Two observations. How on earth did England survive for 120 + minutes? And Andrea Pirlo has more creativity in the nail of his right foot's little toe than the entire England squad. That was the nail he used to execute that breath taking panenka to level the penalties, 2-2 en route to Alessandro Diamanti's game winning spot kick. As an Arsenal fan it brought back memories of his penalty with which West Ham drew level after the Gunners took a two nothing lead a few seasons ago, yet another painful example of the club's fragility.
The debate before the match was whether Mario Balotelli would start which was rather ridiculous to begin with because like Pirlo, there is no one in this England squad who could hold a candle to his talent. He was a force of nature in front of goal and only some wayward shooting and an excellent Joe Hart saved England from being embarrassed.
There was the matter of 4 minutes in the second half when Italy churned out 4 opportunities with Daniele De Rossi, Pirlo, Balotelli, and Riccardo Montolivo all coming close but ultimately their finishing, Hart, and the upright all conspired against them. Diamanti also hit the upright and in extra time England also survived a very close call when Antonio Nocerino was judged offside after his header beat Hart. In all Italy churned out 35 attempts on goal, 20 on target while hogging the ball 63% of the time. England had nine attempts of which 4 were on target.
Here is a stat that should impress those less impressed by the English defense. Twelve of those attempts were blocked. LeBron James could have done no better. At the other end, Glen Johnson looked more threatening than any of the forward men including Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney. For Rooney, this represents failure in three straight international competitions. Young so deadly down that left flank for Utd had a miserable campaign underscored by that penalty attempt where he used up all his power without paying heed to location.
One would love England to do well. It gave us this sport as we know it but it seems what it takes to succeed has largely escaped them but for a few instances since 1966. The last year England surprised the world with Sir Alf Ramsey's innovation of wingless wonders. Spain was a hard luck case too about 6 years ago but they figured out a way to win and one has to respect their tiki-taka even as it gets panned as a surefire way of curing insomnia. It's innovation that wins and England have not had one single creative idea in this sport since those days almost half a century ago.
Anyways, it is now Group B vs Group C, as Germany take on Italy and Portugal meet Spain in the semi-finals. Germany vs Italy is going to be a classic with the Italians dominating head to head in wins, 14-7, whereas Spain has the measure of their Iberian neighbours with a 16-6 margin in victories.