So, sadly, the
adventure comes to an end, in the cruellest way possible, after a
dreaded penalty shoot-out yet again.
gave their all but in the end, if truth be told, they weren't quite
good enough, and it is
now go on to meet the Germans in the semi-final.
It was obvious from the start of this
quarter-final that the Italians had not only decided to try and play
into the space beyond England's back four, but also to shoot on sight
of goal. Mario Balotelli
spent all evening trying to pepper teammate Joe Hart and it started
within 38 seconds. On
three minutes a pull-back from the right was met by Daniele de Rossi
and he hit a magnificent shot with the outside of his boot.
The ball sailed away from Hart's dive but struck a post before
soon came back and they almost opened the scoring on five minutes with
a fine move started and almost finished by the impressive Glen
Johnson. His link up with
James Milner down the right ended with a cross to the middle that
found Johnson five yards from goal.
He managed to adjust his feet and hook a shot goalwards but
Gianluigi Buffon pulled off a fine save.
In the context of what was to follow, one now
wishes that one of those early chances had gone in!
To be fair, after Johnson's near miss England had
the better of the next 20 minutes although there were no more chances
as good as that one.
Wayne Rooney headed over from Johnson's cross, and then Rooney, from a
good position, wasted a good passing opportunity.
Meanwhile, Balatelli had a cross blocked by Steven Gerrard,
Milner had a cross cut out at the other end and then Danny Welbeck did
well to clear an Italian corner.
But it was the Italians who then created another fine chance.
This time the mercurial Andrea Pirlo found Balotelli in a
central position and he seemed certain to score, but John Terry came
from nowhere to make a brilliant blocking tackle.
As the game ebbed and flowed it was
England's turn next, when a good
break on 32 minutes ended with Rooney setting up Welbeck for a clear
shot at goal. But instead
of blasting it low and hard he decided to side-foot the ball and it
flew over the bar. That
was a golden chance to be honest and at this level those sort of
chances must be taken.
Unfortunately it is something England
never quite get right in these big games.
As the half wore on
started to assert their authority, made easier for them by
England's decision to sit back and
wait for the next attack.
They had seen how the Italians struggled when the pressure was put on
their defence but instead of going for it they sank further and
further back waiting for the next Italian thrust.
Antonio Cassano fired in another shot, one of several he had,
and he then had another go, with Hart parrying the effort.
A great challenge from Joleon Lescott then stopped Balotelli,
whilst a poor free-kick by Italy
almost led to an England
chance. Rooney though,
still not the force he can be, disappointed with his final ball.
Right on half-time Balotelli had yet another effort, this time
the ball flew over the bar.
second half began with chances at both ends, as
pushed for a breakthrough.
But on 47 minutes De Rossi missed a sitter from right in front
of Hart's goal. Terry was
having another fine match and another great block produced a corner
From this Hart was almost deceived by a shot and then saved
again from the follow up.
The third rebound should have been put away but as the shot flew over
one sensed that this might just be
On the hour mark Roy Hodgson sent on Andy Carroll
for Welbeck and Theo Walcott for Milner.
Immediately Carroll added more zest to the attack, and that
something to think about.
But always Pirlo was the master of ceremonies, controlling the pace of
the game and the pattern of play.
just sat off him and allowed him to spray his passes around.
Conversely, when England
did get into good positions both Gerrard and then Scott Parker
produced a poor pass at the vital moment.
had chances in this game, of that there is no doubt, and to be honest
there was not a lot between the teams.
showed the quality, but England
were still maintaining their high standards of grit and determination.
De Rossi blasted a shot over, Ashley Young's shot
was deflected wide and a Gerrard free-kick just needed a touch before
Buffon gathered. Carroll
had a good effort and then superb play from Johnson stopped substitute
Antonio Nocerino from scoring.
Again, one wishes now that one of those chances had counted.
So, the ninety minutes were up and it was into
the extra time. One or
two of the England players were showing signs of weariness at this
stage and Italy were strong throughout the extra period.
Balotelli twice tested Hart and an Alessandro Diamante cross
evaded everyone before striking the outside of a post.
Walcott's darting run and cross was just too long and at
half-time in the extra period it was still 0-0, and that was down to
England's sheer hard work.
For all Italy's possession they really had struggled to score
and England can be proud of their defensive tournament.
The second half of this period saw Italy dominant still, but only a
Diamante shot caused concern for England.
Terry, Lescott, Ashley Cole
and especially Johnson had fine games at the back for the Three Lions,
and at least no-one could fault the effort put in by this squad of
It had to be didn't it, of course, the penalty
Balotelli strode up for the first penalty and despite some brilliant
nods and winks and stares from his Manchester City teammate Hart, you
have to hand it to the Italian, he had the last laugh by scoring.
stepped Gerrard to equalise and then false hope as Riccardo Montolivio
drove his kick wide.
Rooney confidently made it 2-1 and then it all went wrong.
Pirlo did a 'Lineker' and chipped it over the goalkeeper, Young
blasted his against the bar, Italy scored again and Cole ruined his 98th
cap by giving Buffon an easy save.
Diamanti hit the final nail.
To be fair Italy deserved the win, just about,
but England weren't that far short and overall they can be really
pleased with their efforts.
It was a little disappointing that we didn't try something
slightly different in the use of our substitutes, and it was
surprising that a player of the quality of Phil Jones never got a kick
during the fortnight.
Maybe his time will come.
At least we remained unbeaten and finally we had something to be proud
of, with the outstanding effort and determination being shown by
everyone. Hart, Terry,
Lescott, Cole, Johnson, Gerrard and Carroll were hugely impressive and
everyone gave their best, and you can't ask for more than that, sadly
though it wasn't quite enough in the final reckoning.
Last but not least a pat on the back for Hodgson,
who has been nothing short of superb, both on and off the field.