Matt Holland (PA)

Pirlo was magnificent and England will know they were second best

By SportUK 25/06/2012 00:02

I feel for England. I’ve been there myself. Penalty heartbreak always stays with you. But the better team won and the tournament’s best four teams are in the semi-final.

If England are honest, they’ll know they were second best.


They looked tired in midfield and Steven Gerrrard and Scott Parker needed help in there.Andrea Pirlo (Owen Humphreys-PA Wire)


No one got near Andrea Pirlo. I’m not convinced England should have man-marked him but they certainly could have done a better job getting around him.


I would have asked Rooney to play in a central role behind the striker so he could drop in and get around Pirlo.


There was a 20-minute period in the first half where England were the best they’ve been in the tournament. They played with a lot of energy in that period and broke quickly and got about the Italians but they weren’t able to keep it going.


Italy had more composure and were able to keep the ball much better and they got on top because of that. Ultimately, I thought England looked like a very tired team.


I don’t think Wayne Rooney was match fit. He’s one of those players that needs to play every week and, if they miss some games, take a few weeks to get back to full fitness.


Wayne Rooney (Owen Humphreys-PA Wire)Roy Hodgson has done so much right it in this tournament but I felt he should have given Rooney a full 90 minutes in one of the pre-tournament friendlies.


You can do all the running you like in training, after that first game back you always feel it.


Tonight, I didn’t have any problems with the changes Roy made. In fairness, he could have changed either central midfield player. Gerrard was out on his feet and went down with cramp on 70 minutes. The captain did well to even finish the game.


Theo Walcott didn’t have the same impact on the game that he made when he was introduced against Sweden. He showed glimpses of his pace but not enough. England didn’t give him enough of the ball. Every time they won the ball they gave it away immediately. Andy Carroll has his limitations but I thought he did OK when he came on. He had to live of scraps though.


I thought John Terry and Glen Johnson had good games but Italy did well exposing Terry’s lack of pace. Antonio Cassano dropped deep to create space for Andrea Pirlo to put balls in behind.


At this level, the threat of being defensively exposed is always there so England tend to drop deeper and deeper. Tonight was the first time in the tournament that the England defence actually caught an opposition player offside! That alone shows how deep they have to defend because of Terry’s lack of pace.


England stuck with the rigid two banks of four and were forced further and further back and allowed the opposition to have more and more possession. In contrast, Italy pushed on. The two full-backs bombed on, almost playing like wingers at times. I’ve seen all Italy’s games through the tournament and they have impressed me with their ball retention.Pirlo's penalty (AP Photo)


Pirlo is a magician, he’s been magnificent. His penalty tonight was unbelievable. I’ve seen one player, Paolo di Canio, take one like that in a game for a team I played in. But on that stage, wow, Pirlo must have nerves of steel!


You risk looking extremely stupid if it goes wrong. It was a moment of genius. His performance was exceptional.


Yes, he had plenty of time and space, far more than England would have liked, but he was utterly immense.


Follow me on Twitter @mattholland8

25/06/2012 08:44

Why play Rooney? Last world cup showed he has no skill. Rooney played as though he was playing for a pub team. I would not even entertain him in the premiership. Let China have him.

Over paid, Over rated, no football skill.

I think that Rooney should give the money he earned to a charity as he clearly does not diserve to be paid

If Rooney worked in a company he would have been sacked by now.


25/06/2012 08:53
Until English players learn to pass the ball to other members of the English team instead of passing to the opposition then we wont win anything. It is no use blaming the strikers if they do not get decent passes then they can't score. The Italian strikers had good service throughout the game but even then they could not score so dont knock our strikers. Our whole team was rubbish we just cannot pass the ball to our own side.
25/06/2012 12:52

Let`s be honest here .

Why all the talk about Wayne Rooney returning after suspension being England`s saviour.

Why all the talk about England going all the way to the final.

Even though i`m a Man U fan , Rooney in my eyes never plays as well in an England shirt as he does for the reds.

As for the talk of England possibly reaching the final --- Jesus ; They only just beat the minnows of Ukraine and Sweden and now the`re the next World Cup Winners !!!

God knows what Germany would have done to them had they reached the semi`s.

get rid of rooney. For gods sake. You need a striker who will chase the ball, put the effort in and make things come to him. Time after Time I saw rooney waiting for the ball, there was a pass where he had to move a few meters to get the ball, and he just threw his arms in a huff because it was too far away.

He needs to be spoon fed the ball otherwise he is just a total waste of space. He always has been. When he had the ball he was rubbish with it. Everything must come to him, he doesnt make things happen.

Saving grace was John Terry's superb defending.
25/06/2012 13:00
England weren't favourites and were outplayed by the better team - Italy.  They didn't deserve to progress any further, and for once the penalty shootout ended in the correct result: the better team on the day won that too.  No complaints.  Good try England.  Maybe next time.
25/06/2012 02:53
To be honest, I'm glad England lost in the shoot-out. At least then we avoided the embarrassment of being thoroughly trashed by the Germans (again). Italy were by far the better team, England couldn't string three or four passes together without losing the ball (in all four matches) Against the likes of the ruthless attacking and keep-ball of the Germans or Spain, the outcome of that kind of play would have been embarrassing. Many of our players didn't turn up for this tournament  Ashley Young was god awful in every game. Milner was a joke and Rooney had enough chances to prove to us all he's this "world class" player we're constantly told he is. He missed them all apart from that tap in against Ukraine that even Emile Heskey wouldn't have missed. If he were playing for United then he would have buried the last minute bicycle kick that he flopped. The amount of headed chances he fluffed was unbelievable. What's up Wayne? Don't wanna mess up your transplant?  To be fair to Hodgson, he did his best with the bunch of OAP's and average players we have to choose from right now. The scary thing is that our two best players in the tournament (Gerrard and Terry) are probably about to hang up their boots for England. Who is going to replace them? Because they will be vastly missed. We rode our luck, we were outplayed in almost every match and we lost eventually in the typical England way. We're all used to it by now? The only positive to take away from this tournament is that we are... not.... Holland. Time for a ground-up rethink? (wasn't that out thoughts in 2010?) The deja vu is killing me here. When will we ever learn? We're just not that great!

We were awful, lets not be romantic about it and bleat on about how nobody thought we would get this far in the competition, and didnt Roy and the boys do well, face the facts we were "RUBBISH", and every English person is relieved we are out of the competition, at least going out with a little dignity on penalties, than being totally taken to the cleaners by Germany. Thank god I dont have to put myself through that torture anymore, I remember watching England play through the years, as you watched going ooooooh aaaaaah as we nearly scored or showed some skill, but this has been totally different because we have been so bad i have just wanted to turn the tv off. Thank god its over i say.

25/06/2012 13:13
Rooney is an over paid tub of lard. We should have kept with the young team of the first two games. Rooney cares more about his hair than his football.
25/06/2012 04:35

Well.2nd best is about right. Rooney just showed that he is Not a Player of International quality.

It was the same in the world cup.The likes of Parker also. Terry,lescott, Gerard, Milner did well.

Joe Hart had a good game.

Mica Richards and Adam johnson should have been in the squad. England need a good Manager also.

Maybe Harry? but he does not want the job, i wonder why? Maybe because the likes of Rooney are actually rubbish at football. It did show tha the had no ball control skills.

He should never be picked for England again he is clearly not good enough even carroll played better than Rooney. 

25/06/2012 01:32
brill england got wat they deserve nothing as they were the most negative team in the competition along with ireland.but they think they are good but nobody else does thats why the germans wanted them to come called brill players wat a laugh.only gerard can hold his head up high the rest are inept muppets especially rooney soon as he comes back england get much much worse.and he left out players for that donkey so roy hodgson your not good enough and your limitiations have been woefully exposed.england will never be a team as they have no self belief it was like watching chelsea defend all game and hope to nick something on the break,so abysmal to watch
25/06/2012 09:56
Well we got as far as we deserved ! Once again our star players were hopeless. Wish Hodgson had the guts to leave out Rooney from the squad let alone the team playing for England he finds he cannot bully the ref or the opposition he was a waste of space ! Feel for the players who gave their all but sorry we were embarrassed!
25/06/2012 08:26
no body expected england to get as far as they did, the younger players did really well, they played alot better when rooney wasnt playing as they were jelling as a team, but when rooney was on they fell to pieces, hes not the player everybody hipes him up to be, he needs replacing, and so does john terry, he has lost his speed and  control, gerrad played some good passes in, but looked very fed up. hart was great, so sad that we lost on pens, it would have been great to see england go head to head with germany, just hope hodgson builds a younger team then maybe we will progress further next time,
25/06/2012 11:56

The English Premier League is about money,not about the game.

The skill level comes from players from other countries.

Thats why things will never change until you get rid of these players and reconstruct the coaching regime to invest in English talent from a young age.

And stop the high wages for players who are not worth it.

25/06/2012 10:05

England were doing ok until Rooney joined them.

Draw your own conclusions.


25/06/2012 11:48
Said it before and ill say it again Rooneys an overated player who cant play for England..
25/06/2012 13:11
Throw away this England team and bring in new, fresh young, fit and skilled players (that are not divas). If they continue with this useless team, their ambitions will be stuck on quarterfinals for life.

England were actually lucky they got to penalties as the Italians missed so many chances. So this is the best this team can do... lead us to penalties and die an agonizing defeat.
25/06/2012 10:19
Best thing we can do for English football is cancel our Sky subscription and go to freeview. Record amount paid for the Premiership rights only one week ago. This is your subscrioptions going straight into the hands of a few overpaid footballers, managers, agents and self publicists. Does nothing for the game as a whole. This is the worst European tournament I can remember. Take the crazy money out of the game and we'll see better football.!!!!!!
25/06/2012 11:45

What a wake up call to realise that England are a second rate outfit!

When you hear about their magnificent salaries you assume that you have a team of world beaters.

In reality I don't think that any English players on show in these finals would rank in the top 50 players of the world. They get paid the same as Bankers and, sadly, play like a bunch of bankers! 

25/06/2012 11:22
The sad fact is England were 2nd rate, Rooney seems to prove that at the level they are expected to play at he comes up well short. Until we get to the situation where our top clubs can only have 1 player from abroad our young players will never get the chance to get into the top flight.
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  • Matt HollandMatt Holland

    Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Matt Holland talks all things football from the Premier League to the grass roots.

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