Sunday, June 24, 2012

Euro 2012: England v. Italy

So here's what's been happening in the European Soccer Championships. Three of the four quarter-final matches have been played. Portugal scored a pretty easy 1-0 win over the Czech Republic. Germany crushed Greece 4-2. Spain had no problems in a 2-0 win over France. So far, so good: three solid winners, no bad officiating, and no matches decided on penalty kicks.

Now we have come to the fourth and most evenly-matched quarter-final: England v. Italy. The Italians should be favored, as they almost always make the European semi-finals, and England almost never do. And so far the Italians have been the better side. After 43 minutes, they have six shots on goal to only one for England. If anything else happens, we will note it in the comments.


  1. England 0 - 0 Italy (Half Time)

    Italy looks the better team so far.

  2. The winner of this game plays Germany in the semi-finals, while Portugal will meet World Champions Spain in the other semi-final.

  3. England 0 - 0 Italy (47 minutes)

    Italy looked certain to score there, but an Italian player missed the goal from about four feet away. The ESPN announcers are shocked with that miss.

  4. England 0 - 0 Italy (50 minutes)

    Here's what this game looks like. England are wearing their traditional white uniforms with red numerals, while Italy are in their traditional blue uniforms with white numerals. It looks like a game between Western and UK.

    Most of the time, Italy has the ball. They spend their time setting up very clever attacks on the England goal -- although occasionally they will blast away from 25 yards or so . About once every five minutes, England will get the ball and charge down to the other end of the field. Sometimes they get off a shot, sometimes not. But Italy quickly gets the ball an heads back the other.

    Italy, by the way, just blew another great scoring chance.

  5. England 0 - 0 Italy (54th minute)

    The English announcers on ESPN are sounding quite gloomy, as it does appear to be only a matter of time before Italy score.

  6. England 0 - 0 Italy (60th minute)

    Mario Balotelli just had Italy's 500th great chance of the game so far, but once again he banged the ball over the crossbar.

  7. England 0 - 0 Italy (65th minute)

    Well, that was different. England just missed a chance. We haven't seen that in a while. The ESPN announcers take hope from the possibility that all of Italy's missed chances will come back to haunt them.

  8. England 0 - 0 Italy (75th minute)

    It seems unlikely that England's defense can keep Italy out for 90 minutes of full time plus 30 minutes of extra time. But whatever happens, I don't think Germany will be losing sleep over the prospect of playing either of these teams in the semi-final.

  9. England 0 - 0 Italy (80th minute)

    Yet another save by England's goalkeeper, Joe Hart (who plays for Manchester City). He's been great in this game.

  10. England 0 - 0 Italy (85th minute)

    The English play-by-play guy for ESPN, comparing the two squads, says that "Italy's passing is on another level, if we're honest." That's a pretty fair summary of the game.

  11. England 0 - 0 Italy (86th minute)

    ESPN tells us that Italy have had 14 shots on goal, to only 2 for England. That's also a fair summary of the game.

  12. England 0 - 0 Italy (90th minute)

    England actually had a pretty decent chance there to win the game, but a nice build-up ended with Wayne Rooney banging a bicycle kick over the cross bar.

  13. England 0 - 0 Italy (Full Time)

    Thirty more minutes of this ahead.

  14. England 0 - 0 Italy (94th minute)

    England had another decent chance to score off of a free kick. The ball was free just in front of Italy's goal for a few tantalizing seconds, but Italy's goalkeeper got control before England could do anything.

    1. Oh, and England were offside, so they couldn't have scored anyway. Never mind.

  15. England 0 - 0 Italy (100th minute)

    Twenty minutes left.

    Here's another suggestion to deal with penalty kicks. In every knock-out game, have a penalty kick shootout about 30 minutes before the game kicks off. That way, the teams will play the game knowing who will win the penalty kick. That will put a lot more pressure on whichever team lost the penalty kicks to attack, thereby leading to a more interesting contest.

  16. England 0 - 0 Italy (101st minute)

    From the ESPN announcers: "Italy have been the better side. No two ways about it." The English play-by-play guy is pretty openly hoping for penalty kicks at this point.

  17. England 0 - 0 Italy (105th minute)

    That's it for the first half of extra time. Fifteen more minutes until penalty kicks. The ESPN play-by-play guy is feeling better about England's chances as we get closer to PK's.

  18. England 0 - 0 Italy (108th minute)

    You would think that a team like Italy, which has had the ball 63 percent of the time in this game, would be pulling out all the stops to avoid the chance of losing on PK's. But no one plays it that way. In general, once you get to the last 15 minutes before PK's, both teams become more cautious.

  19. England 0 - 0 Italy (115th minute)

    Italy continues to create chances at about the same rate as it has throughout the game. Their most recent chance ended with the ball going into England's goal, but Italy were flagged for offsides and the goal didn't count.

    Now both ESPN guys are rooting for England to make it to penalty kicks.

  20. England 0 - 0 Italy (End of Extra Time)

    On to PK's. England are 1-5 in penalty kick shootouts in major competitions. Italy are 2-5 in penalty kick shootouts in major competitions. One of those teams will see their record get even worse. Bob Ley of ESPN says it is the most imperfect way to decide a match ever imagined.

  21. England 0 - 0 Italy (Italy win 4-2 on penalties)

    I was rooting for England to win this game, as I usually do. But it would have been an absolute travesty for England to advance after being totally dominated by Italy throughout the game. Fortunately for Italy (and for soccer), England apparently used up its penalty-taking luck when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win the European Cup last month. England did their usual terrible job on PK's. After two rounds of PK's, England were up 2-1. But then they missed their next two, meaning that with only one kick left, the best they could do was three points. Italy made their third, fourth, and fifth kicks to take an insurmountable 4-2 lead. So England's record in PK's in major competitions falls to 1-6. Here's their record in all major competitions since 1990:

    1990 World Cup: Lost to West Germany in Semi-Final on Penalty Kicks
    1992 Euro Champs: Went 0-1-2 in group stage and eliminated
    1994 World Cup: Failed to qualify
    1996 Euro Champs: Lost to Germany in Semi-Final on Penalty Kicks
    1998 World Cup: Lost to Argentina in Sweet 16 on Penalty Kicks
    2000 Euro Champs: Went 1-2-0 in group stage and eliminated
    2002 World Cup: Lost 2-1 to Brazil in Quarter-Final
    2004 Euro Champs: Lost to Portugal in Quarter-Final on Penalty Kicks
    2006 World Cup: Lost to Portugal in Quarter-Final on Penalty Kicks
    2008 Euro Champs: Failed to qualify
    2010 World Cup: Lost to Germany 4-1 in Sweet 16
    2012 Euro Champs: Lost to Italy in Quarter-Final on Penalty Kicks

    So this was actually England's best performance in a major tournament since 2006. If the usual pattern holds, they will get knocked out on penalty kicks in the quarter-final of the 2014 World Cup.

    Italy, meanwhile, go on to play a very deserved match against Germany. That should be quite a game.