These two European powers always serve up some dramatic matches.
The fixture with Italy matching up against England was a great indicator of many weaknesses and strengths for both sides. With this game being the highlight of the tournament thus far, both sides did little to disappoint.
Italy looked particularly confident and strong on the pitch. In the opening minutes, the Italians were displaying a system of fluid passing and moving the ball to all sectors of the field, giving everyone a chance to get acclimated to the game’s tempo.
We saw the man of the match Andrea Pirlo dictate the movement of the game and pull the strings for Italy, pinpointing his passes, and notching up some great chances for Italy; fulfilling his role as the deep lying playmaker.
Italy’s first goal was bound to come, as good chemistry between De Rossi, Verratti, Pirlo and Marchisio, allowed for them to snatch the first goal off a corner. Pacey runs, and good ball movement from Candreva allowed for Italy to continually push forward, as he was able to set up a stellar cross for Balotelli to put them ahead. Balotelli, although relatively ineffective for the match was continually taking chances for Italy.
Italy’s defensive line looked fairly shaky at some points, allowing Welbeck, Sterling, Rooney, and Sturridge to slip and make runs in to the box. However, it seems that Azzurri’s tactics were to slow wear out England, and then begin to press them and not let them through, forcing them to shoot from awkward positions. The defensive partnership between Barzagli and Chiellini formed a defensive rock, with the young Darminian looking to be a promising right back. Paletaa too looked fairly decent on the flank. Sirigu, having to start to replace the veteran Buffon, looked very impressive, stopping a number of chances, and dispelling and diffidence from the back lines’ minds.
Even deep into the game, Italy looked as if they were just slowing the game down to their own pace to work on their passes and conserve energy for down the road. But most importantly, they never seemed to lag behind. They were always controlling the game, never showing any signs of lacking depth and skill. Later performances from Motta and Parolo kept the game steady. But truly it was the amazing and impeccable work of Verratti and Pirlo that helped Italy tick and keep the ball moving.
Defensive work from De Rossi and Marchisio gave England seldom chances to break through the midfield, and Candreva worked great up front with Balotelli. While Italy played well, they will need to take more risks and have a striker that does not fade away throughout the duration of the game. It might be better to pair up Immobile and Balotelli, to allow for two strikers to work off each other and allow for the playmakers to have more options. Italy’s passing was phenomenal, and they were defensively sound, but need to press more on the offensively and defensively if they wish to combat quicker sides.
England has faced criticism from the football world over the past few years, for failing to live up to the status they need to uphold from its strong football culture. They have failed in recent years to really shake anything up on the global stage. However, there were some positives to take away from tonight, but truly, England were outmatched.
A rematch of the Euro 2012 quarterfinals saw England seeking revenge for their humiliation at the hands of Italy. As the game kicked off, England looked intimidated, rarely moving forward with promise. However, they were very vibrant, and were starting to get through the Italian defense. Rooney, Welbeck and Sturridge were beginning to get it going and were moving the ball with good pace and attacking the box-something Italy needed to do more.
The flair of the English strikers gave them an advantage over Italy, because they were bound to get a breakthrough as they kept moving down the field. Finally, Rooney served up a great cross for Sturridge, who headed home from a needed goal. After that, England had a few chances, but just couldn’t break Sirigu nor Italy’s midfield-they just couldn’t break Italy’s grasp of the game. Baines and Johnson were decent for some parts of the game, but they were outmatched. In particular parts of the game, England seemed to really be shutting Italy down, but they were outplayed on the flanks but Italy’s backs. Gerrard gave a somewhat solid performance, as he attempted to operate England, but he was really pushed to his limits and could not make much happen.
Hart looked nervous in goal, and threatened by the onslaught of Italy’s movements. Henderson and Cahill stood no chance to Balotelli and Candreva, but were able to keep the ball from getting too far. Jagielka provided a little bit of hope, and rescued England on a few occasions. England was outclassed.
Both sides put in all they had, and there will be much to expect from both sides as the tournament goes on.