Wileman: Italy deserved win over England

Luke Wileman
6/24/2012 10:40:15 PM
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There's no doubt about it, the best team won.  Italy had more of the possession, the better of the chances, and thoroughly deserved to advance to the semifinals at UEFA Euro 2012 with a penalty shootout win over England on Sunday.

It certainly wasn't the highest quality match in the tournament, but there was no shortage of drama as England bowed out of the tournament in familiar fashion.

Andrea Pirlo was once again outstanding for the Italians. He created the most attempts on goal of any player on the pitch, and had as many completed passes as the top three England players combined.

Pirlo pulled the strings perfectly in the Italian midfield, and then when the pressure was really on, kept his cool during the penalties to chip the ball straight down the middle of Joe Hart's goal. As former England midfielder Darren Anderton said on our broadcast, it was a performance that showed Pirlo is "pure class."

Italy should have won the game in 90 minutes. Mario Balotelli had a couple of excellent chances while the Italians also hit the woodwork and forced a couple of good saves from Hart in the England goal. After a bright start from both sides, England struggled to create many opportunities and spent much of the game trying to soak up possession from the Azzuri.

From the back, Italy looked strong. Led by Gigi Buffon who was equal to the task on the rare occasions he was called into action, but the Italians rarely looked troubled by England's attack. Italy's defence will face its toughest test yet when they come up against Germany in the semi-final in Warsaw on Thursday.

As Italy moves on to Warsaw, England now heads home after crashing out of the tournament on a penalty shootout once again. It was the same scenario when they last appeared in the European Championship Quarter Finals in 2004 when they were beaten by Portugal. In fact, England has now lost six of seven penalty shootouts at major tournaments dating back to 1990.

England's side had nowhere near as much quality as Italy, but they deserve credit for fighting hard and defending well in order to take the match to extra time. England's problems cannot be fixed overnight, but Roy Hodgson managed to get some decent performances out of the players he had available at the tournament.

There's a reason expectations were so low heading into the tournament. England's off-pitch upheaval left little time for the new manager to prepare for the tournament, but he managed to get the players on side, playing for him and for each other. The togetherness amongst the group was one of the big plusses for England during the tournament.

Hodgson deserves credit for England's advancement to the Quarter Finals. He got the best he could out of the squad. England is a long way from being a contender at a major international tournament and lacks top level world class talent, but they should take pride in what they were able to achieve.

England exits the tournament without having lost a game in regulation time. Roy Hodgson has now been in charge for six matches and is yet to be beaten (before penalties). Hodgson has proved to be a wise choice to be in charge of England.

The player that was most impressive for England during the tournament was Steven Gerrard. He led by example and was the heartbeat of the team in midfield. His delivery from set pieces was outstanding and he ended EURO 2012 with three assists. Gerrard has always been a player that can be relied upon for club or country, and he proved that once against in the four matches he played in Ukraine.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on

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