Monday, June 25, 2012

Business As Usual: Italy 0 - England 0 (4-2 PK)

photo by Tambako the Jaguarvia PhotoRee

Thoughts I had while watching England lose to Italy on penalty kicks:

Overall: I'm not surprised England lost.  Let's face it, Italy has a very good team....  Ultimately, though, I have to disagree with all those who said that England "exceeded expectations" this year by making it as far as they did.  Shouldn't England at the very least be expected to make the knockout stage of a major tourney -- or have expectations fallen so low that this, too, is now a gift...?  It's not as if the English won their knockout game and advanced to the semifinals....

o Is this the current state of English football?  Should a team packed with Premier League "stars" such as Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart, et al -- England's "golden generation" of footballers -- go down meekly without creating much in the way of chances during a match to a team that was definitely beatable?  Is this the "new" England of low expectations and early knockouts?  If it is, thank God they're not my team, because this is a group of guys that appear to be going nowhere in a hurry.  And it's not like the weight of great expectations burdened the English team this year....  No, this was a squad full of individual stars that never learned to play as a team.

o If only I'd known what was to come: Although the game got off to a rollicking start -- Daniele De Rossi's wicked slice off the bar, and an English ball falling to one of the few players on the pitch who was incapable of finishing it (thanks, Glenn Johnson) -- with more chances in the first five minutes than France saw all game on Saturday, that was known simply as "upfronting" the action.  Long periods of torpid play followed, with England so knackered by extra time that they were physically unable to string more than even one or two passes together.

o Does the position of Italian Manager also come with its own suit contract....?  How do those guys always manage to look so casually cool and well dressed....?

o England's defensive posture lacks explanation: fall back and don't pressure the ball. I know about keeping your shape, but the English conceded possession and position to the Italian opposition at virtually every opportunity.

o Joe Hart was completely out of position when Mario Balotelli broke clear on goal midway through the first half. It pains me to say this, but it was only an outstanding play by John Terry that saved a goal. Terry was the only English defender running at full tilt, and it was solely down to his hustle that the scoreline remained knotted at zero.  Sad but true fact: John Terry was England's best player yesterday.

o I really don't understand James Milner (nor do I understand Roy Hodgson's propensity to play him ahead of both Walcott and the Ox).  Milner is a player who can look brilliant  at times -- see City 6 - United 1, for example -- and completely and utterly ordinary at others. Unfortunately for England, yesterday's lineup featured the latter of the two Milners.

o The Three Lions appeared to come out for the second half with a different playbook, pressing the ball more and creating turnovers.  Unfortuantely, the new look lasted only until they fatigued and then it was back to the "old" England: concede possession cheaply, and drop back quickly.

o I'll go on record saying that I liked Woy's changes at the hour mark, taking off an ineffective Danny Welbeck and Milner for Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott. Speed and height were just what the doctor ordered. The duo made an immediate impact on the game -- too bad they weren't inserted earlier.

o There's no shirt pulling at Euro 2012?  Don't tell that to John Terry, as Daniele De Rossi almost swapped kits with him mid-match on a free kick in the Italian 18-yard box.  That should've been a clear penalty, and was likely the worst blown call of the match.
o If only: Wayne Rooney's bicycle kick in stoppage time would've been the goal if the tournament.

o Jordan Henderson as England's third substitute for the evening?  That's an indictment of English football, as well as Roy Hodgson's selection methods. Where is Michael Carrick when you really need him?

o Dog tired: England was thoroughly incapable of doing anything other than hoping for penalties during the last ten minutes of the match.

o Otherwordly: Andrea Pirlo's penalty kick?  You can't fake class.

o As several Twitteratis noted, hoping for penalties and then winning a game you didn't really deserve to doesn't hapen all that often.  Despite Chelsea's victory in the Champions League to the contary, this is not a viable strategy, Roy.  Better get back to work.

o Meanwhile, I hope the Italians don't get too full of themselves after a victory over England.  The Germans steamroller is coming on Thursday.
This is farlieonfootie for June 25.

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