Monday, 25 June 2012

Shootout lottery denies England again

England bow out of EURO 2012 at exactly the stage Roy Hodgson anticipated. Outclassed during most of 120 captivating minutes, it's Italy who'll go forward to face Germany in the semi-finals.

The game descended into a goalless war of attrition as Italy's passing and possession forced England into a rearguard action.

Pirlo crowns Man Of The Match with cheeky pen!
The first-half would've been the time for England to score and assert their authority on the game, but it wasn't to be. With Andrea Pirlo orchestrating midfield, Italy created chance after chance. Even Mario Balotelli played with discipline and resolve. Talk of mini-explosions and tantrums proved fruitless for the baying English media.

The Italians did score through Nocerino, but he was ruled offside. They'd have deserved it but manful England defended doggedly, managing to get over the line for the penalty lottery.

Sadly, it's never a competitition for England. We always go out of tournaments on spot-kicks - and despite the preparation Joe Hart and others insisted they were ready for, the cheekiest of Pirlo chips helped secure a 4-2 win.

The England manager insists he's no regrets and the team can keep heads held high without a single "What If" to keep them up at night.

But there were some distinctly ordinary performances out there led by Ashley Young, who surrendered possession too much and Wayne Rooney, who was completely beyond the required match fitness needed.

On the positive side, Glen Johnson produced his best performance in an England shirt to date and John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole will all know they were in a real contest.

We also have in Hodgson the new head of a settled regime ready for our next disappointment, the World Cup in 2014. It's now 48 years of hurt - and counting.