Euro 2012 Quarterfinals: England vs Italy For Last Spot in Semifinals

2012 UEFA European Soccer Championship Quarterfinals
England vs Italy
Olympic Stadium – Kyiv, Ukraine
Sunday, June 24, 2012, 2:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN

All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Point Spread: England pk -115 / Italy -105
Total: under 2 -125 / over 2 +105
Three Way Line: England +177 / Italy +183 / Draw +180
Odds to Advance: Italy -120 / England -110
Point Spread, Total, and Three Way include regulation and stoppage time only. Advance includes extra time and/ or shootout.

After serving a 2 game suspension, Wayne Rooney returned for England against Ukraine. Now Rooney and England will take on Italy in the Euro 2012 quarters.

Though England and Italy are the last quarterfinal of Euro 2012, it might be the most competitive of the four. The winner will join Portugal, Spain, and Germany in the semifinals, all of whom won their quarterfinal matches easily.

This is the 23rd meeting ever between England and Italy. The Italians hold a slim 9-6-7 advantage in the series. However, they haven’t played a competitive since 1997 when they were in the same qualifying group for the 1998 World Cup. The two teams haven’t even played a friendly since 2002.

England is coached by Roy Hogsdon. Many thought England would struggle to get of Group D for Euro 2012, because they would be without Wayne Rooney for the first two matches due to a suspension. England didn’t even qualify for Euro 2008. England scratched out a 1-1 draw against rival France to open group play, and then beat Sweden 3-2 in the second match. Rooney returned in style for the third match scoring the lone goal on a header against host nation Ukraine in a 1-0 win. The English got a gift when France turned in a lackluster performance against Sweden in a 2-0 defeat. The French loss gave England the group title and allowed England to avoid powerful Spain in the quarterfinals. France qualified for the quarters despite the loss.

Italy is managed by Cesare Prandelli. A match fixing scandal just before Euro 2012 left doubt whether the Italians would even compete in the tournament. However, the Italian soccer federation decided to let the team compete. Italy had 1-1 draws against Croatia and Spain and needed to beat Ireland in the last match in Group C in order to advance. The Italians won 2-0 and clinched second in the group when Spain beat Croatia 1-0.

English goalkeeper Joe Hart gave up 3 goals in the three group games.  He struggled against Sweden giving up 2 goals but redeemed himself with a shutout against Ukraine despite facing some tough shots.

England will use a 4-4-2 attacking style with 2 strikers. Rooney was a little rusty in his return against Ukraine, despite scoring the goal. He missed a couple of wide open chances, something he can’t do against a talented Italian squad. Hogsdon must decide whether to use Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck at the other striker. Both have been effective in limited action.  Captain Steven Gerrard, the ageless John Terry, and Theo Walcott are also very talented.

Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon has given up only 2 goals in 3 games so far at Euro 2012. He kept a clean sheet against an overmatched Ireland squad that didn’t test him very much.

Italy has a ton of talent, but a lot of divas as well. Talented striker Mario Balotelli is also temperamental and will fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Against Ireland he came off the bench and scored a beautiful goal on a bicycle kick. Teammates had to cover his mouth so he wouldn’t yell at the manager for not starting him. There is pressure on Prandelli to start him against England. Prandelli switched from a 3-5-2 formationto a 4-3-1-2 before the Ireland match. It seemed to open up the offense so Italy might keep the same formation against England. Midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and forwards Antonio Di Natale, and Antonio Cassano can all score at any time.

Both of these teams are unpredictable and dealing with off the pitch issues. England’s Terry faces a racism trial next month, and the match fixing scandal could have ramifications for some of Italy’s top players. You never know what you will get from Italy because their top players sometimes act like spoiled children if things don’t go their way. Hard to believe but England hasn’t won a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup, and has never won the European Championship. I think these teams are evenly matched. I don’t see this game being decided until extra time or perhaps even penalty kicks. Italy wins 2-1 to advance to play Germany in the semifinals.

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