LONDON -- WORK did not allow me to watch a full Euro 2012 match over BBC 1 and ITV 1 the past weeks. But today was a rare day off for me and I spent it cleaning my flat, buying groceries and watching a hapless England squad lose to a brilliant Italian team via another painful penally shootout in the European Championships in Kiev, Lituania.
It was excruciating to watch a star studded England side outplayed by and Italian team with very few stars but very rich in talent. The only well known player for Italy are the brilliant but problematic Mario Balotelli of Manchester City and veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon while the England paraded a bunch of Premiership stars whom most of them are over paid and even some of them were overweight and lacked the skill of an international footballer.
Italy was superior from the start getting ball possession 63 per cent most of the time compared to England's only 37 per cent. England was lucky to end the match 0-0 after an agonising 90 minutes and two 15 minute extra time because the Manchester City hitman super Mario Balotelli forgot to bring his scoring shoes. Had he converted all his chances there would be no reason for us to extend our agony.
Andrea Pirlo, the Juventus playmaker orchestrated Italy's ball possession with a precision of a conductor. He was a joy to watch in the midfield dribbling past the English defenders and creating those sharp and precise passes. England spent the entire match chasing the ball that in the end they were just too tired to attack.
The best England could do was a soft strike by full back Glen Johnson early in the first half just two steps away from Buffon after a brave run from the right side and getting a pass from James Milner. Buffon however was quick enough to save the shot and avoid an embarrassing England lead.
I used to work with legendary Cebu coach Glen Ramos and he would always instruct his players about ball possession. He would insist that in order for us to win a match we should dominate ball possession.
How did Italy then dominate ball possession? Simple. They have better and skillful players. The Italians were masters of dribbling, passing, faking, and all other football skills that the English were like amateurs compared to them. They were just un lucky to miss the back of the net and as I told you before Baloleti forgot his shooting boot.
England coach Roy Hodgson however did a great job in bringing this team to their target of making the quarterfinals. It would have been a bonus had England advanced and it could have been a great injustice had Italy lost.
I expected them not to advance to the quarter finals but luck was on their side when they topped Group D in the elimination round drawing France, 0-0 beating Sweden, 2-1 and escaping past Ukraine, 1-0.
I thought Roy's bringing in of Andy Carrol, Theo Walcott, and Jordan Henderson for James Milner, Danny Welbeck and Scot Parker in the second half would change the tide of the match.
The trio of Carol, Walcott and Henderson did not lift the three Lions and were like headless chicken pretending to play football. In contrast, Italy's Alessandro Diamante, was a class of his own when he came in in the second half.
The left footed midfielder from Bologne played only his third cap last night but looked like he was a master of the ball, creating several chances and even hitting the bar with his brilliant cross. He capped his sterling performance of the night with the winning goal in the shootout after the two Ashleys Young, and Cole missed their penalty shots.
Where the hell was Wayne Rooney all night? He was busy chasing balls all night that he forgot that he was supposed to score goals. His best effort was an off balanced bicycle kick after getting a head pass from Andy Carroll. His shot however went past the cross bar and into the crowd.
The Italians were also superb during the penalty shootout except for Ricardo Montolivo whose shot went wide at the right side of England's goalkeeper Joe Hart. Mario Baloteli hit the back of the net with a smashing rocket at the right side. The brilliant Pirlo scored with a deceptive flip to the middle that saw Joe Hart diving to the right. Antonio Nocerino slotted in Italy's other goal before Diamante scored the winning goal.
For England, Wayne Rooney, and Steven Gerard hit their target but Young hit the crossbar while Buffon saved Cole's shot to break England's heart.
In fairness to England, their defence were superb all night. John Terry was on the tail of Baloteli all the time and moved forward when needed. The main reason why the Man City hitman failed to score during regular play are John Terry and his three other defenders Glen Johnson, Joleo Lescott and Ashley Cole. They took turns in making his life a hell up front.
England manager Roy Hodgson said after the match that they practiced penalty shootouts a thousand times and Ashley Cole and Ashley Young were brilliant. However he added that nothing could replace the real match, where there is so much pressure on the players and tired legs make the difference.
It will be war when our World War II allies Italy and Germany clash in the semifinal on Thursday night in Warsaw, Poland. Neighbours Spain and Portugal will meet in the other semifinal on Wednesday.
Italian brilliance and German efficiency will be on display when these two football superpowers meet in the pitch while England fly home today and lick their wounds.
We are looking forward to the qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil but as of the moment Wimbledon is on and the Olympics are just in the corner. What a year for British sports. Exciting and frustrating. GOD BLESS firstname.lastname@example.org