5 reasons why Italy won


While England hurled themselves into the fray, running at Italy and hoping to tear them apart with their pace, Italy were rather more considered.

They chose to keep the ball and string the passes together, conserving their energy for the latter stages. They were smarter and it paid off.

When they took the lead, they immediately decided to sit on it and close the game down. They packed the midfield and made England chase the ball until their legs gave out.

It was no surprise that Roy Hodgson's men were so weak in the final stages. Italy had exhausted them.

That, ultimately, was the difference between the two teams.


While Hodgson made the surprising decision to leave tiring older players on the pitch at the expense of younger, fresher legs, Cesare Prandelli played a perfect hand.

Thiago Motta arrived after the second goal to help shore up the midfield and block the dangerous runs of Raheem Sterling.

Then, with time running down, Mario Balotelli was withdrawn for Ciro Immobile. The Borussia Dortmund striker had energy and pace and prevented England from launching an all-out attack for fear that he would punish them on the break.

In the stifling humidity, the substitutions had to be good. Hodgson's, the justified decision to withdraw a limping Daniel Sturridge notwithstanding, were confusing.

Prandelli's were pitch perfect.


In 2012, England allowed Andrea Pirlo to dictate the play and Hodgson insisted that there was a plan to prevent a repeat performance.

There wasn't. The bearded genius put in a performance so impressive that Joe Hart approached him after the game and said simply, "Wow."

Age doesn't seem to weary Pirlo, he just continues to push the ball around the pitch, making extraordinary passes look like the easiest skill in the world.

He deserved a goal and he very nearly got one. The next goalkeeper he faces may not be so fortunate.

It's harder and harder to believe that AC Milan let him leave for nothing three years ago.


Aided and abetted by England's failure to lock down their left flank, Antonio Candreva was a constant menace on the flank.

Leighton Baines, left exposed too often by Wayne Rooney in the first half and Danny Welbeck for a short period after the break, simply couldn't cover the zone and the Lazio man was able to run riot.

His cross for Mario Balotelli's winning goal was absolutely perfect, a stroke of genius that opened up the English defence. He could have scored one for himself in the first half, but was denied by the post.

For one of the less glamorous names in this squad, this was a spellbinding display.


From the first minute to the last, Italy played with composure and certainty.

They knew what they had to do and they didn't allow England to rattle them, even when the attacks came thick and fast in the first half.

They were confident enough to stick to their plan.

By contrast, their opponents let their emotions get the better of them, particularly towards the end as desperation began to show.

England were daring and they deserve much credit for the ferocity of their performance, but Italy were professional and measured. They out-thought the English.

This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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