England were beaten 4-2 on penalties after extra time, after no goals had been scored over the 120 minutes.
Italy missed lots of chances tonight – with England strong in defense
And England basically defended and hung on for most of the 120 minutes, if truth be told, after having a decent opening spell of 15 minutes when they attacked Italy.
Italy completed more than twice the passes that England completed, and out-shot England by more than a 3-1 ratio.
And it seemed that once the England defense had cleared the ball the midfield had trouble keeping possession, because of some poor passing.
England held out for the 90 minutes, and then held on in the face of incessant Italy attacks through the 30 minutes of extra time, and they rarely threatened Italy.
Although England did have some decent chances – Wayne Rooney in particular had a couple of very good chances in this game.
And so when it came to penalties England had absolutely nothing to lose, because there was no way they had deserved to win this game, based on what happened in those 120 minutes.
So why not just smash in the penalties?
Balotelli scored the first penalty for Italy, and then Steven Gerrard scored his, but then Montolivo missed his penalty when he pulled the ball wide, and then Wayne Rooney scored with his penalty to put England 2-1 up, with three penalties to take.
If England scored their next three penalties they were through to the semi-finals, but such is the fragile nature of it all, that England missed their next two spot-kicks.
Ashley Young, who offered little throughout this game on the left wing, and kept giving the ball away, hit the bar and Ashley Cole had his shot saved down to his right by Buffon – but it was a poor attempt from the England left back.
On the other hand Pirlo, Nocerino and Diamnati all scored their penalties, and that gave Italy the victory by 4-2 in the shoot-out.
In 2006, in the World Cup in Germany, then England manager Sven Eriksson had said yesterday that his big mistake was not taking a psychiatrist with him, to work with the England players on penalties, and maybe they should start thinking seriously about that.
It’s all in the mind with the England players, and at least for penalty shoot-outs they need to toughen up mentally. England have had seven penalty shoot-outs in major competitions, and they have won only one.
That was in 1996, when England beat Spain 4-2 in the Euro 1996 Championships quarter-final shoot-out, after no goals had been scored after extra time.
But the England defense tonight was outstanding, with John Terry, Glen Johnson, Jolean Lescott and goalkeeper Joe Hart in particular having big games for England.
But as predicted by most neutral analysts, the midfield of Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker was completely outplayed by the strong Italian midfield, with Andrea Pirlo being given loots of time and space on the ball throughout the game, and why that was the case – we have no idea.
If it’s any comfort for England fans, there’s no way we deserved to win this game, and we didn’t – and plaudits to the England defense for hanging on for so long, and keeping a clean sheet when under considerable pressure, which seemed unrelenting at times.
But Italy will now have to raise their game significantly from tonight’s display, if they are to get past Germany in the semi-final on Thursday.
And they will have only four days rest after having had this very tough and tiring game, with extra time and penalties, and yet Germany will have had six days of rest – how did EUFA allow that one to happen.