Where is England's Pirlo?
Euro 2012: Krakow
The man held up as being single-handedly responsible for exposing the fault lines in England's football culture was as in control and centre stage at 'Casa Azzurri' on Tuesday afternoon as he was in Kiev's Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
Casa Azzurri is the impressive downtown Krakow headquarters commandeered by Italy for their Euro 2012 campaign and Andrea Pirlo was on show to the world's media before Thursday's semi-final with Germany in Warsaw.
The meeting with Germany may have been top of the agenda but the 33-year-old Juventus star was still being showered in acclaim for the midfield masterclass - and brilliantly audacious spot-kick - he delivered as Italy beat England 4-2 on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Pirlo has almost been cast in the role of the sort of player England most need, the identikit of the footballer that manager Roy Hodgson requires to shift their game away from the resilience, discipline and organisation on show here to something more subtle and modern.
Pirlo expects a very different challenge against Germany. Photo: Getty Images
The perception is that England are bogged down in the past while the rest of what the English would regard as serious rivals move forward. To bridge the gap is the trick Hodgson must perform after a creditable Euro 2012.
Italy had 68% of the possession against England and Pirlo seemed to have most of it. He was the game's leading passer with 131 while ageing legs did not stop him covering 11.58kms in 120 minutes, more than any England player.
The contrast in styles was most brutally exposed by the statistic that goalkeeper Joe Hart completed more passes than any of his team-mates.
Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard were too fatigued and shackled to their roles to restrict Pirlo while Wayne Rooney could not break away from his attacking duties to stem the 33-year-old's tide of precise passes.
Pirlo dropped deep to start Italy's attacks but was also astute enough to make his way into positions to provide decisive passes in attack. He had the full range when in possession - hence his current status as the antithesis of England's style and approach, which he described on Tuesday as "prudent and careful".
The oldest trick of the quality player, the ability to find time and space while having a picture of the next pass already fixed in your mind, is in Pirlo's bag but it will intriguing to see if his guile is allowed to flourish in opposition to men like Germany's Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger in Warsaw.
He also expects Mesut Ozil to come and occupy some of his territory in a way that Rooney failed to do and is ready for the greater challenge Germany will present.
Pirlo said: "There have been many games in the past when I have had as much possession as I had against England. It happens. The difference is that against Germany I expect Ozil to be a great threat in and around the areas where I am playing.
"Whereas Rooney stayed further up, he will play in the same areas, although Ozil will not necessarily do a man-marking job on me."
One of the most frequently asked questions since their trademark departure on penalties has been: "Where is England's Andrea Pirlo?"
The answer seems to be, sadly for Hodgson, in Arsenal's treatment room. If Manchester United's Paul Scholes was England's Pirlo of the past - at least when Sven-Goran Eriksson was not playing him on the left wing - then Jack Wilshere is being put forward as the future.
Whoever this mysterious figure is, he will do well to match the praise being heaped on Pirlo, whose performance was epitomised by the chipped, drifting penalty that deceived Hart to almost shift the psychological momentum back to Italy in the shoot-out after Riccardo Montolivo's early miss.
Pirlo is not regarded as the most talkative of Italy's stars, a trait which prompted one journalist at Casa Azzurri suggest that this silence and the ice-cold thinking behind his penalty portrayed a streak of madness.
"It was not folly. It was not madness," said Pirlo. "I felt like doing that thing at that moment. I just had this inspiration before the penalty. When you have to take a penalty you have to be confident in yourself. I saw the keeper move and I hit it."
Germany's approach may differ from England's but Italy will not alter their own style, which will inevitably have Pirlo as its hub.
He said: "Our approach to the game is the same because this Italian team can only play like this. We have to take advantage of our quality and technique. This is the only way, Unlike England, Germany can create many threats to our defence."
Quality. Technique. Two things Pirlo has to spare - and how Hodgson and England wish they could unearth some more of their own.