Euro notes: Italy deserved win

(L to R) England's coach Roy Hodgson, Steven Gerrard, Phil Jones and Martin Kelly react after...

(L to R) England's coach Roy Hodgson, Steven Gerrard, Phil Jones and Martin Kelly react after losing their Euro 2012 quarterfinal soccer match against Italy following a penalty shoot-out at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, June 24, 2012. (REUTERS)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 PM ET

WARSAW - It’s a simple bottom line, even though it went to penalties, Italy deserved to win. A win by England would have been theft . . . The final, 0-0, was the most predicted finish before the Italians advanced 4-2 from the spot . . . Italy dominated England for the final hour, controlling the ball for long periods to the point of embarrassment . . . If the Italians had had any finishing touch they would have won this game by at least two, probably three goals . . . England’s biggest fears came to life. They were worried that Italy would dominate the midfield -- they did ... In England's group games, they played teams with weak middle thirds. Only Steven Gerrard showed he’s a world class midfielder . . . They were worried about going to penalty kicks and they did that as well . . . There’s a lesson to be learned. If you don’t want to go to penalty kicks, you’d better show a greater willingness to attack than England did . . . By the way, after that performance, Germany wouldn’t have been worried by either Italy or England . . . Italy has a more talented midfield than the English and after the first 30 minutes when the Italians were a little compact, they spread themselves out and worked the outside a little more. After that, they didn’t have many problems because they squeezed Gerrard a little. That said, as long as England starts James Milner out there, they are going to have problems with anyone. I can't understand England’s fascination with Milner . . . Just as I can’t understand Italy’s fascination with Riccardo Montolivo . . . Italy is most effective when their backs come forward, especially Federuci Balzaretti ... It was England early carrying the play but that changed when Italy began to compact the field and prevent midfielder Steven Gerrard from getting the ball. 

NOT SO DULL

The prediction of a dull game was never going to be correct. Italy had loaded up the midfield bringing Daniele De Rossi up from the back. He loves to attack. England has Gerrard who is in form. Plus, Giorgio Chiellini, one of the best shutdown defenders in the world, was out for Italy. That spells chances if not goals. Even though it went to extra time, it was a more open game than anyone expected . . .With Chiellini out, England had an advantage in the air.

BALOTELLI MUST FINISH

There is one thing Mario Balotelli is exceptional at and that’s not letting his body language give away anything. It always says: ‘I’m angry and ornery.’ When Italy was on the field warming up, Balotelli was wearing his headphones and sitting on the bench. Everything said ‘I’m not starting.’ He started . . . The insertion of Balotelli is not a surprise. With some of the strength and size of England’s defenders, Balotelli is Italy’s biggest player option. And those defenders are familiar with him because Balotelli plays his club football in England with Manchester City . . . Balotelli is a talent but he has to score on more of his chances. He won’t be a starter for long if he keeps wasting opportunities created by his teammates. In soccer, chances need to be taken because you don’t get many of them. The kind of strikers Italians love are the one chance, one goal strikers like Gigi Riva, Roberto Bettega, Paolo Rossi . . . Meanwhile, England started well in the first half but their midfield collapsed. All the work Gerrard did in the first three games started show.

NASRI NOT HAPPY

Things continue to get worse for France. Samir Nasri didn’t start Saturday's game against Spain but came on as a late substitute. After the game, he rushed through the mix zone and wouldn't stop for interviews, saying to a reporter that all he wanted to do was “stir up s---.” The incident degenerated from there. Now it seems the reason Nasri didn’t start in the game was because many of his teammates were upset at him for being selfish. Vive Le Bickering . . . Speaking of bickering, at the England-Italy halftime, Balotelli and De Rossi had a lively discussion on the field and then Balotelli waited for De Rossi at the head of the tunnel. It couldn’t have been about a lack of service  . . . The substitution of Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott for James Milner and Danny Welbeck should have been a good move. Walcott has some speed and Carroll has size but neither looked like they were ready to play. That’s a good move by a manager that didn’t turn out because his players weren’t ready . . . Italian coach Cesare Prandelli brought in Christian Maggio near the end for two reasons. He’s the best attacking back Italy has and he can take kicks from the penalty spot if it goes to beyond five. As teams get tired, a good run down the flank can open up the defence for a potential winning goal. It was also a response to Walcott coming in against a tiring Italian defence . . . A game that goes to extra time this late in the tournament is going to affect the next game a team plays. As if Germany needs anymore help.

 


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