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Italy need finishing school

Published: Monday 25 June 2012, 11.24CET
Italy deserve credit for the way they dominated their quarter-final against England, but the fact they won on penalties reflects a profligacy in front of goal that needs addressing.
by Richard Aikman
from Krakow
 
Published: Monday 25 June 2012, 11.24CET

Italy need finishing school

Italy deserve credit for the way they dominated their quarter-final against England, but the fact they won on penalties reflects a profligacy in front of goal that needs addressing.

When I had the chance to sit down with Gianluigi Buffon on Friday he seemed pretty sure there would be no penalty shoot-out against England. "When you think too far ahead of how a match might finish, it never pans out that way; it normally ends sooner," he said.

Perhaps he was just trying to look on the bright side, in the belief that Italy were good enough to win the game in normal time. In theory they were: the Azzurri completely dominated the Kyiv quarter-final, unloading 35 attempts on goal to England's nine.

Yet, for all their possession, the four-time world champions have not been able to convert chances. They have registered just four strikes in as many matches and if Cesare Prandelli's side are to progress further they will need to address their profligacy in front of goal.

It might have been so different had Daniele De Rossi's swerving, first-time shot not rebounded off a post in the early stages, or had the same midfielder not scuffed his second-half effort wide with only Joe Hart to beat. However, the harder they tried the less convincing the Azzurri became at the business end.

©Getty Images

Italy's Andrea Pirlo crowns a memorable display with a cheeky penalty

Prandelli's team defended well, with Buffon only called into action the once when saving well from Glen Johnson, while Andrea Pirlo was again the evening's standout performer, somehow always making time for himself on the ball and spraying passes into danger areas at will.

It was a vintage performance, yet as Mario Balotelli continued to miss chances, Antonio Nocerino was denied first by the superb Johnson and then by the offside flag, and Diamanti hit the upright in extra time, it was apparent that Italy could play for another ten hours and still not score.

In the end, England almost scraped through, but the two Ashleys came up short and Italy lived to fight another day, thanks in part to an outlandishly impudent penalty by Pirlo.

Italy, it should be stressed, deserve enormous credit for the way they played, but they will need plenty of shooting practice ahead of the semi-final against Germany on Thursday if their adventure is not to come to an abrupt halt.

Last updated: 27/06/12 11.41CET

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