Hello everybody around the World,
It’s the fourth Quarter Final of Euro 2012 with England taking on Italy at the Olympic stadium in Kiev. It’s a 60,000 sell out with the live television signal being beamed to a global audience of millions of viewers Both teams are unbeaten in the tournament and face each other for the first time in a competitive game since a tense draw in 1997 at the Olympic stadium in Rome.
A total of 69 goals have been scored in Euro 2012 with 18 scored by English Premiership based players and 6 from the ‘giocatori’ who play in the Serie A. England have scored 5 times in the tournament with 5 different scorers, all under the age of 30. Italy have scored 4 goals with 4 different scorers who, with the exception of Mario Balotelli, are all over the age of 30.
Italy have fared better in International tournaments having won the World Cup four times, lastly in 2006, and finishing runners-up to France in Euro 2000. England’s best record in recent times is two semi-final appearences in Euro 1996 and in Italy in the 1990 World Cup. For the last Euro 2008, England did not even qualify.
The key men of tonight’s game have met on two unforgettable occasions before. In Istanbul Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard inspired the most remarkable comeback performance of recent times.In 45 minutes he brought his team from 3 goals down to draw 3-3, and then onto win the penalty shoot-out, against Pirlo’s AC Milan. In Athens, the silky Italian playmaker would gain revenge with a 2-0 win for the Rossoneri. This third confrontation, therefore, is decisive. Istanbul, Athens and now Kiev with the winner taking on Germany in the Semi-final.
Italy’s veterans can out-think the England defence if they have too much of the ball. England are prone to giving the ball away too easily. The control and positional play of Pirlo and Cassano can pull England’s organized shape apart and allow the gaps for Balotelli, or Di Natale, to find shooting opportunities. The loss of both Thiago Motta and Giorgio Chiellini are a blow to the Azzurri hopes of fielding their best XI. Midfield will be deliberately crowded by the Azzurri with De Rossi, Marchisio and Montolivo providing the tackling and movement to allow Pirlo’s quick decision making to be decisive.
England’s pace and clinical finishing sets them apart from the other teams in the tournament. The introduction of Theo Walcott against Sweden showed how quick paced attacks can unsettle top International opposition. I believe that the right side of England’s attack will provide the key to unlock the Azzurri defence, whether through the movement of Rooney, the determination of Gerrard, or the searing pace of Walcott. Balzaretti at left back is suspect and surely this represents a great chance for England to score their goals. Rooney is feared by the Italians but, although he has an excellent scoring record in the Champions League against Serie A teams, at International level he has often been found wanting. His winning goal against Ukraine, the joint host nation, in the last game may be the sign of things to come.
* In 14 Champions League games against Italian teams, Wayne Rooney has scored 10 goals
* Both Welbeck and Balotelli, United and City, have scored 2 goals for their country
* For England, if booked, these players are banned for the next match:
Gerrard, Cole, Young, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain
* For Italy, if booked, these players are banned for the next match:
Buffon, Maggio, Balzaretti, Bonucci, De Rossi, Montolivo, Balotelli
Coach Roy Hodgson is unbeaten with 4 wins and 1 draw and England have scored 7 and conceded 3 under his guidance. Former coach, the Italian legend Fabio Capello was dismissed after a dispute over the selection of John Terry as England Captain.
I’ll be watching the game tonight by the Duomo in Milano. I’m into my last two weeks as an Italian resident before emigrating back to England. I’d hoped for this game to be the semi-final and wish that whoever wins goes on to win the tournament.