Euro 2012: Day 18


Caught By The Catenaccio: Germany 1 – 2 Italy

If the first semi final was dull, then this was like a Jerry Lewis movie. You see the joke coming a mile off, you get a reaction shot, you pan back to the joke (now merely a hundred yards out), repeat reaction shot, pan back (50 feet) and there it suddenly is right in front of you. The joke. Cue drum roll and curtains.

Now Germany had had the chance to watch the Amazing Pirlo Show, not once (against Engerland), not even twice (against Ireland), but right the way through the tournament. They’d even seen the way Croatia managed to put the brakes on him. And still they let the funny man with the frying pan beat them about the head with abandon.

If the first semi final saw the varying philosophies of Spain and Portugal cancel each other out to result in stalemate, this saw the exemplary defensive play and midfield distribution of the Italians overwhelm the midfield mastery and attacking power of the Germans. And in a way the Germans were beaten at their own game as the Italians first sucked them in, then punished them on the break, rather as the Germans had done for Engerland at World Cup 2010. Only where Germany were helped by some tragicomic defending from Terry and the boys, they were outdone by two fabulous strikes from Ballotelli, who atoned for his inexplicable miss against the Spanish in their group game.

Once Germany allowed Pirlo to begin pulling the strings there was no way back and although they laid siege to the Italian goal in the final minutes and scored a nice consolation penalty, they never really looked as if they had got any degree of control over the match. What with Bayern’s defeat to Chelsea and now this, maybe the Germans are developing an air of defeat about them.

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Euro 2012: Day 17


Stalemate: Spain 0 – 0 Portugal

You hope for a riot and you get a small disturbance by the corner shop. This should have been a feisty, combative battle between the team of the tournament and the man of the moment (Pirlo excluded). Instead it was possibly the dullest of all the matches in the tournament so far as the two philosophies of Portugal and Spain cancelled each other out.

This was everything that football shouldn’t be. The focus on the individual rather than the team, the focus on the individual rather than the football. This should have been the moment for Ronaldo to seize control, to finally show that he can be the decisive factor in the really really big games in the same way that Pirlo was against Engerland. Instead this was Ronnie at his least effective. Indeed, it was Nani (ever the understudy) who appeared more effective, although given the torpor the game induced that isn’t saying much.

Spain themselves seemed surprisingly outclassed for the first half, only really rousing themselves for extra time and even then they weren’t roused enough to really make a difference.

Still, like Engerland, penalties were funny, funny, funny. The best joke being that Ronaldo, who obviously sees himself as the saviour of football, didn’t even get to take his penalty.  From glory boy to glory hole in one fell swoop.

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