England take on Italy in Sunday’s quarter final Euro 2012 clash, and it will not be easy for them even against one of the arguably weaker teams left in the tournament. At some point that renowned harlot Lady Luck will dump England and run off with someone else (7.45pm; Today, Sunday, June 24. TV: BBC1 / BBC1 HD).
The fickle aristocratic has not been acquainted with the England team for many years, but she was there when England became Group D winners. She helped retrieve the 2-1 deficit against Sweden to create a 3-2 score line against moderate opponents. Somehow she also blinded the touch line official in the game against Ukraine who clearly witnessed the ball cross the goal line and linger in the air before terrier Terry booted it back out.
Of all Roy Hodgson’s players, Lady Luck has been the hardest working. She was busy covering up England’s defensive deficiencies in the first half against Ukraine, when the Three Lions should have been three down at the break. She was the one who spilled the ball through the Ukraine goalkeeper’s hands to gift a welcome-back goal for a grateful Rooney.
You know the one thing about luck is, just like easy money, she always runs out on you. She is such a tart she may just swap sides for the Italy game and help Balotelli to a hat-trick. While the Italian enigma has history with loose women, and a certain shared interest with bitter rival Rooney, we know he would not need luck to destroy the brittle English defence. It was breached twice by the Swedes and Ukraine carved it apart numerous times in the first 45 minutes, they just did not have a striker on the pitch at the time to finish the job.
For all their heroics on paper, Hodgson’s band of merry men has not looked invincible against unspectacular rivals on the green and pleasant turf of Eastern Europe. So, a classier team than Ukraine or Sweden that possesses a striker or two could annihilate England, especially early in the game. A good team won’t let them back in like the obliging Swedes did. While this is undoubtedly a more disciplined and well organised England team than in the World Cup two years ago, the same vulnerabilities remain.
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The talent England possesses is undoubted: Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck bring a fresh breath of raw ability with them. Rooney we know can deliver for Manchester Utd but not yet for England. He has been in the games that have disappointed patriotic supporters the most. Don’t think his gift from the Ukrainian goalkeeper means he has suddenly struck a rich vein of form. That was so simply even Gareth Southgate could not have conjured a miss.
What about Italy? Are they a better football team than the Swedes and Ukrainians? Well, the answer is categorically ‘yes.’ That said, they could not put a hatful past the Irish and only got the game won through a couple of dead-ball scenarios. Despite possessing individuals of the quality of Balotelli and Cassano they have struggled to score in open play thus far. More worrying for England, who have been finding the net in open play, is that the Azzurri have been hard to score against. Italy’s professional defence is hard to breach.
Given the Italian strength in defence and their lack of goals so far, I could see England making chances but failing to score. The Three Lions’ own fragilities at the back may plague them against the best Euro 2012 team they have played. Do not quote me that draw against over-rated France. France were subsequently humiliated by the Swedes, who had nothing to play for, and then put in their place by Spain.
If England v Italy goes to penalties there can be just one winner, but the game will not last that long. For the match betting tips, I could see Hodgson’s side losing by the margin of a goal without reply.