29 June 2012

GERMANY 1 (Ozil 92 Pen)
ITALY 2 (Balotelli 20, Balotelli 36)

The Italian defence went to sleep on a fifth minute corner fortunately Hummels was the only player alert and his miss-hit volley went through Buffon's legs but Pirlo blocked on the line. Buffon spilled what should have been a routine catch from a Boateng cross, the ball hit Barzagli and rolled out for a corner. Kroos forced Buffon to save with a shot from the edge of the box. All of this happened in the first 15 minutes and it was as good as it got for the Germans. Montolivo and Cassano had Italy's first shots in anger, neither troubling Neuer. Italy won a throw-in and worked the ball around midfield before Pirlo was forced to retreat by Ozil, he ran back into the centre circle, turned and under no pressure hit a crossfield pass upto Chiellini, Chiellini bounced the ball off his chest before passing inside Boateng to Cassano, with his back to play Cassano rolled Hummels, brought the ball over to his left foot and chipped a cross into the box and Balotelli got away from Badstuber to plant a header past Neuer. Excellent goal. Gomez got between Italy's centrebacks and laid off a Boateng longball to Ozil but he failed to trouble Buffon with an anaemic shot. Montolivo tackled Ozil as he received a pass, the ball broke to Khedira, he trapped in on his chest and hit through a half volley, Buffon making a superb two handed save. Buffon punched out the resulting comer to the left of the box, Montolivo picked up the ball, ran forward then hit a longball between Lahm and Badstuber to Balotelli, Balotelli took a touch on his chest, turned, pushed the ball forward with his left foot then with his right thundered a shot into the roof of the net. Excellent finish.

At half time Gomez and Podolski were substituted for Klose and Reus. Reus combined with his captain for Germany's best chance. Reus overhit a pass to Kroos, Lahm broke into the picture and flicked the ball into Kroos, Kroos waited for his captain to run into the box before returning the ball, Lahm had a free shot on goal but completely buggered up his effort with a lame side foot shot that flew off the pitch. Marchisio found Balotelli in space on the left, he baited Lahm who dived in with a tackle then headed for goal, he stepped away from Badstuber but screwed his shot well wide of the left post. Buffon made a brilliant save from a Reus free kick. Marchisio wasted a great chance to make it 0-3 following a sensational passage of play. De Rossi turned a Motta (on for Montolivo) pass onto Marchisio, Marchisio back heeled to Pirlo and he hit a first time crossfield pass to Balzaretti, Balzaretti waited for Pirlo to advance forward before laying off the ball, Pirlo hit a blind first time pass into Marchisio who bounced the ball of his chest as he turned, into Diamanti, Diamanti (on for the shot Cassano) split the German defence but from the edge of the box Marchisio shot wide. Nocerino would have scored. Marchisio passed up an even better chance after first Pirlo and then De Rossi played blind passes into each other as the Italians began to toy with the Germans, Badstuber slipped after Marchisio stepped inside him giving him a couple of extra steps but he pulled his shot wide of the left post. Nocerino would have scored. Bonucci headed a Schweinsteiger cross 30 yards downfield to Diamanti he sent Di Natale (on for Balotelli) clear of the German offside trap but he too shot wide. Terrible miss. In injury time Neuer started playing as a sweeper, advancing into the Italian half on several occasions. Germany were awarded a penalty when under pressure from Klose Balzaretti swung his left arm into the ball as it bounced off his thigh. Germany were awarded a free kick near the half-way line. As Neuer ran up, Schweinsteiger inexplicably played the ball short to Ozil and the ref blew for full time. I doubt they would have scored in any case.

Against England I feel Italy played the best football of the tournament. This performance was similar only they put away some of their chances. Italians are technically and tactically superior to Germans. Much has been made of Lowe's tactical changes when in fact the only change from the group stage was Kroos coming in for the disappointing Muller. The Greece game was clearly experimental and used to rest players. In the opening minutes Schweinsteiger was tracking Pirlo then whoever was nearest to him took up the slack. The problem with that is when a player is normally pressed if he can't get past or turn his man he makes an unforced error - Pirlo doesn't, if he can't get past his man he retreats until he can make a pass and at that stage either his marker has stopped tracking him, as was the case here, or is far out of position leaving a big hole in midfield. A strong DM can take Pirlo out of his game. Germany don't have one. I'm not sold on Khedira, despite his size I don't think he can boss a midfield and Schweinsteiger has been poor all tournament, in fact all year since returning from injury which means one of two things either he's been injured or Van Bommel made him look far better than he was when they ran the Bayern Munich midfield. I also don't think Ozil is the player he's made out to be but he has the potential. He needs to play in a much stronger league to fulfil it. There's no question Germany have a fantastic squad and a glut of excellent young players what they don't have is a great coach. Loew was given far too much credit for 2006, it was almost as if Klinsmann was his stooge and he did all the work. The problem with Lowe is that he isn't a winner. Germany don't need a coach off the pages of a menswear catalogue, they need a high charged lunatic to oversee a potentially highly charged team - they need Jurgen Klopp.

As for Italy the momentum is with them ahead of Sunday's finally. Performances have improved since the return to a four man defence while Spain have laboured through to the final. Spain will probably still have more possession and control of the midfield but Italy have a fantastic defence. If Abate isn't fit they will struggle to cope with Alba and Iniesta down Spain's dangerous left side. If Balotelli can produce a performance like this Italy will take home the trophy.

Attendance : 55,540
Assists : Cassano, Montolivo

28 June 2012


Iniesta played a one-two with Alba before running in from the left and rolling a centre to Negro, Alves made a challenge, the ball broke to Arbeloa but he blazed over from 16 yards. Negredo and Xavi passed out wide to Iniesta but he also shot over the bar. Alba intercepted a pass but presented the ball to Moutinho, he passed to Ronaldo, he switched the ball to his right foot but he slipped as he shot wide of the right post. He blew the best chance of the match on 90 minutes after Portugal broke from their own half, shooting Meireles' pass high into the stands.

Spain should have won this in the first period of extra time following a phenomenal piece of skill by Alba. As he ran at the Portugal defence he threw off a defender with a feint then dragged the ball back, knocked it forward and centred to Iniesta but with most of the goal gaping he shot straight at Patricio who produced a fantastic save nonetheless.

Alba combined very well with Iniesta but he leaves a lot of space in behind when making those forward runs.

Xabi Alonso - Hard, low and right but denied by a brilliant save
Moutinho - Left, stuttered run up, telegraphed, saved
Iniesta - Bottom right
Pepe - Bottom left
Pique - Bottom left
Nani - As Bruno Alves was about to take the penalty, Nani ran past him, spotted the ball and whacked it into the top left corner
Sergio Ramos - Another Panenka. Boy is someone going to look stupid when the 'keeper stands still
Alves - Smashed the ball against the underside of the crossbar
Mr Disingenuous - Lucky little weasel, rat bastard, in off the left post

Spain win 4-2 on penalties.

Attendance : 48,000
Assists : n/a