England, not good enough for the 'Italian job'

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Wayne Rooney
Kiev, Jun 25: An epic clash between England and Italy turned out to be more one-sided as the Azzurri took charge of proceedings from the opening minute while The Lions were sent packing back after losing the first penalty shoot-out in the last quarter-final of Euro 2012.

Hardly five minutes had gone, both teams had fantastic chances to go ahead, but it was perhaps written in the stars that this so-called epic clash would end up being a scoreless draw and decided on penalties.

Having being appointed just nine weeks prior to Euro 2012, Roy Hodgson, who took over from Italian boss Fabio Capello, was criticised for his selection policy. The former Liverpool boss opted for a more defensive strategy during the Group stages.

England should consider themselves lucky to have topped Group D after a clear goal from Marko Devic was disallowed for Ukraine while France slipped in their last group match against Sweden.

However, looking at their record against Italy, the Lions have never won a competitive fixture in over 15 years. All the media hype and expectations from millions of fans across were dropped on the shoulders of eleven players who aimed to repeat the glorious days achieved back in 1966.

There was never a doubt that Cesar Prandelli's men were the better side in terms of passing and possession. England, packed with five in midfield, manage to sneak out to the other half on a few occasions. With players from the best league in the world, the Lions could hardly pass to each other while the Azzurri were toying with the English back line.

Veteran Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi had the most touches than any other player on the field. English fans who dominated the stands only to see their hapless side chase ghosts for 120 minutes.

England, however, organised their defence in a very structural manner. Blocking crosses, through balls, offside trap and John Terry threw his body on thundering long shots. The only positives from the tournament for Hodgson's side could be their defensive strength.

The Italians were denied clear goal-scoring opportunities but whenever Mario Balotelli found space near the edge of the box, defender Terry or stopper Joe Hart came to England's rescue.

Prior to the quarter-final, all eyes were on Super Mario and Wayne Rooney. But the Manchester United ace was a mere frustrated figure like thousands of faithful English fans while the 'bad boy' Manchester City striker had infinite chances to down the Lions.

With 65 percent possession and nearly 900 passes completed, the Azzurri played around the English as if it was a training session. Pass maestro Pirlo, who completed over 100 passes easily, was the creative mind in midfield along with De Rossi.

England ran out of luck in front of goal as right-back Glen Johnson mis-kicked a shot over Buffon's goal. England skipper Steven Gerrard produced another spectacular free-kick effort but striker Rooney failed to get a touch.

England's quarter-final jinx as well as failure in penalty shoot-outs seems to be a curse for the world's most hyped team. Players from famous clubs failed yet again to come together and end their 66 year trophy drought.

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