Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo. The playmaker was kept quiet for all of 15 minutes as England set a man to shut him down. But he soon shed his shadow and pulled the strings for an Italy side that should really have won in normal time. His cool, chipped penalty inspired his team-mates to victory during the shootout.
England verdict: Started the game really well and created some early chances, but got the jitters as the game went on and allowed Italy to dominate possession. Mario Balotelli beat the offside trap on numerous occasions as the defence pushed up but he was eventually nullified. A lack of ability to keep or pass the ball eventually told as Roy Hodgson’s men looked very tired after about 60 minutes, never mind extra-time. England’s most creative player, Steven Gerrard, was tied up with defensive duties for most of the game.
Italy verdict: Deserved winners. The Italians eventually dictated the play after some shoddy early defending gave England a head of steam. Mario Balotelli’s forward runs provided huge spaces for Andrea Pirlo and Riccardo Montolivo to work in midfield and they punished England with a fine display of passing. It was a shame the Azzurri forwards’ finishing was not up to the same standard as they squandered chance after chance. Extra-time also went Italy’s way but again they were wasteful in front of goal. They finally bagged the victory in the shootout.
Could do better: Ashley Young. His place was one of the few that was in doubt prior to kick-off and his confidence appeared to be dented when the game kicked-off. The winger had chances to run with the ball when his full-back Ignazio Abate was isolated but spurned the opportunity to do so. His passing was way off target and he took too many chances in defence. He missed a great chance when England were under the cosh …. and then came the penalty miss.
Stat attack: Mario Balotelli has never missed any of his ten penalties in official matches.