Azzurri Outclass England For A Deserved Penalty-shootout Victory

KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 24: Andrea Pirlo of Italy chips the ball in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between England and Italy at The Olympic Stadium on June 24, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

155 Touches.
131 Passes in 131 Minutes.
87% Pass-completion ratio.
6 Key passes to go with 6 interceptions.
11.58 Kilometers run.
1 Panenka-style penalty to lead Italy into the semifinals.

Let us all take a moment and bow to Andrea Pirlo's masterful display of football against England last Sunday.

........

Okay, done. Hope your back isn't hurting.

The numbers above may not do il Professore complete justice by themselves, but here is a little bit of context to go with them. His 131 passes in the game? Almost 3 times more than Ashley Cole, England's highest passer at 44. Also, almost twice more than Gerard & Parker combined at 67 passes.

His distance run? More than any other English player. His penalty? A ballsy yet classy way of swinging the momentum back for Italy. His overall performance? One for the ages.

In the end, after 131 long minutes (regular + added time), gli Azzurri move on to the semifinals to face a German side which will by now surely be rethinking their approach. If there's one word with which to describe Italy's performance against England, it would have to be DOMINANT. In every aspect of the game. Possession, technique, preparedness, effort, creativity, you name it. Only thing lacking was finishing - Balotelli must have had a deal with Hart to make him look good throughout the game.

It was a shame really that Italy left the game go to penalties, but it did allow for Juve's two biggest Italian stars on the field to shine and, for the umpteenth time, prove to the world that they are the best at what they do.

When Montolivo missed his penalty by a mile by the length of Boriello's mustache, Pirlo stepped up and chipped Hart for a spectacular display of confidence, class, and courage. Instantly, Italy won back the self-assuredness necessary to pull of a penalty shootout victory. Buffon then cleaned up whatever was left of the mess and reminded Hart why he was his idol in the first place. You can't write this stuff.

ITALJUVE PAGELLE

Buffon: 7.5 - My Bufforgasm started very early in this match. His reflex save on Glen Johnson's 5-meter shot in the first 5 minutes was spectacular. His focus throughout the game was inspiring. And his penalty save was absolutely key. Numero uno!

Barzagli: 7 - Swapped places with Chiellini on the injured list and was as solid as usual. I realized that whenever Barzagli is in a game I subconsciously relax and have a lot more confidence in the team (whether it's Juve or Italy).

Bonucci: 7 - Actually looked better prepared than Barzagli at times and had a great game overall.

Pirlo: 8 - I mostly recapped his performance above, but it was truly a magnificent performance from the Metronome. England allowed him time on the ball and he fully showcased his talent of controlling a game, making everyone play at his pace, and creating chances with his passing. Such a pleasure to watch him play.

Marchisio: 7.5 - He was once again HUGE for gli Azzurri in my opinion. Ran his heart out, was ALWAYS there when necessary, made the transition from defense to attack seamless, and just had a tactically smart game overall.

BRING ON ZE GERMANS!

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