Euro 2012 analysis: Peerless Pirlo exposes England
Andrea Pirlo's chipped spot-kick was the crowning glory during a sparkling performance as Italy beat England on penalties to secure a Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany.
Although the margin of victory was narrow, in the 120 minutes beforehand England were given a lesson in the value of possession by the 33-year-old Juventus midfielder.
With Roy Hodgson's side struggling to hold on to the ball for long periods of the game, they allowed Pirlo to dictate play and he showed all of his mastery of the ball to lift the ball over Joe Hart to help secure a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win.
It left the England team wishing they had a player of his ilk to help cure their problems retaining the ball under pressure. He showed England midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker that despite his age, he lacked none of the qualities needed to run a game at international level.
Italy's victory in numbers
- Pirlo was by far the game's leading passer with 131 passes. England's highest passer was Ashley Cole with 44
- 13 of Italy's 14 players used had a pass completion rate of 80% or above, while England had only five players in that category
- Italy had 39 shots to England's 13, with 12 shots on target to four
- According to Uefa, Pirlo ran 11.58 kilometres, more than any England player. Gerrard covered 11.26 km
- England managed only 2.75 shots on target per game in Euro 2012; only Ukraine, Greece & Republic of Ireland produced fewer
- England have only won one of eight penalty shoot-outs in all competitions
- Italy victory on penalties was the first time they have won via this method at the quarter-final stage of a major tournament
Alan Hansen on Match of the Day:
"England did well to get as far as penalties because the gulf in class between the two teams was embarrassing. Big hearts can only take you so far and I think the quarter-finals was the furthest England could go.
"Pirlo has unbelievable quality and England could not match him or Italy, and in 90 minutes the Italians were better in every department on the pitch and it shows you how far we are behind them.
"At international level, possession is king. In the group stages and tonight it was England's biggest frailty. It was a conveyor belt of misplaced passes.
"Pirlo has been fabulous, he controlled and dictated the game and was absolutely masterful. It was a masterclass in technical ability. Steven Gerrard has been by far England's best player, but he spent the night chasing Pirlo around.
"You can't give Pirlo the time and space to pick the passes that he did. How many times did you see Gerrard have the same sort of time and space? The answer is: he didn't.
"England need somebody with the technically ability of Pirlo."
Alan Shearer on Match of the Day:
"The Italian team is not known for its passing, it's more known for its organisation but they passed it around us and England couldn't get near them.
"The performance showed our level. This is where we are. We are behind the Euro 2012 semi-finalists Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
"England have given everything, they were courageous, but they didn't give themselves a chance because they were chasing the ball the whole night. The frustrating thing is when you work so hard chasing the ball, when you do get it, you don't have the energy to do something with it."
What they said about Pirlo's performance:
"You try to keep Pirlo in check but a player of that quality will always find a way around it when you put players on him." - England manager Roy Hodgson
"Italy have very good players and Pirlo showed his experience, he was top class. We've got to evaluate where in our game we went wrong and the manager will do that. I think their quality showed in the end." - England striker Danny Welbeck
"On a pure footballing note, Pirlo just put on a pure footballing masterclass & the penalty was too much." - England defender Rio Ferdinand
"We played to our strengths but are just not quite good enough. The answer has to be to start coaching our youngsters a different brand of football." - England striker Michael Owen on Twitter
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