What The Papers Say On England v Italy

Very few complaints from the gents of the press about England's exit from Euro 2012, and this time there's no sense of injustice, no cruelty, just beaten by a better side...

Last Updated: 25/06/12 at 08:29 Post Comment

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'There can be no complaints. Not if we're honest. Italy were two goals better in the penalty shootout and double that in real time. As Sunday edged towards Monday in the Olympic Stadium, Kiev, one team grew better with age and it certainly wasn't England. The statistics are simply overwhelming. Italy had 36 shots to England's nine and eight on target to England's one. They enjoyed 68 per cent possession and made 833 passes to 364.

'It wasn't so much that England couldn't keep the ball, but that they couldn't get it for long periods. The first 30 minutes were evenly matched, possibly the best football England have played since Fabio Capello's destruction of Croatia, home and away, in the 2010 World Cup qualifying tournament.

'The remaining 90 minutes, though, belonged to Italy, and to one man in particular. Andrea Pirlo summed up the gulf in class between the nations. England have no one like him, but then again, who does? His style is different to Spain's urgent interchange of passes. He is often compared to Xabi Alonso but, again, it is an uneasy fit.

'Pirlo does not quite have Alonso's combative edge. He is a dictator, not an enforcer. He tells the ball what to do, barks orders with his feet. England spent so much time trying to contain Pirlo that by the time the players reached the shootout they had nothing left' - Martin Samuel in The Daily Mail.

'This was the tournament when England became renowned for their humility. Sadly in the Olympic Stadium last night there was plenty to be modest about. A sense of injustice, of cruelty, has swamped England and their supporters after previous tournament calamities from the penalty spot. But not here.

'As England's players stood motionless in the centre circle, coming to terms with their quarter-final exit from Euro 2012, they knew they had been outplayed even from the penalty spot in a game forever defined by Andrea Pirlo's breathtaking dink which floated, featherlike, into Joe Hart's goal. At last, beyond midnight in Kiev, a moment of glorious inspiration.

'We love sport for its unpredictability. But, as this game had drifted towards penalties, millions gripped to their television screens at home must have felt by then that they had watched this film before. We had been learning, joyfully, all the strengths of Roy Hodgson and his new England. In Kiev we saw age-old limitations - and not just from 12 yards' - Matt Dickinson in The Times.

'The cliche of England losing on penalties thus had a new twist. In most cases, from 1990 to 2006, there was regret and a legitimate if not always persuasive argument that England deserved to go through. This time only the most intractable nationalist would suggest that justice was not done.

'The night was always going to end, one way or another, with a John Cleese quote. Had England gone through to a semi-final with Germany, their fans would have been told not to mention the war. Instead they were left to reflect on his line from Clockwise: "It's not the despair, Laura, I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand."

'Yet England were not supposed to have hope in this tournament. This time it was supposed to be different. Not because England could win, but because losing wouldn't hurt. After the victory against Sweden, however, the nation started to feel the irresistible and illogical twitch of belief. And then they started to kneel, once more, unto the altar of pain.

'For all that, it was logically a cautious belief. So England's exit from these finals was accompanied by an unusually benevolent mood. In modern times, England going out of a major tournament has become a ritual, almost as compelling as the match itself. What song will the BBC choose for their closing montage? And more importantly, whose fault will it be? Missed penalties by Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle and Gareth Southgate were absolved on a human level; their reward was a Pizza Hut advert and a wry smile from those who met them in public' - Rob Smyth in The Guardian.

'England have been searching for a semi-final place ever since Gareth Southgate's wayward spot-kick against Germany at Euro 96 and they dreamed here. Yet England can go out with their heads held high. For all the frustration attending another disappointment against a major nation, England definitely return home a better side, with hope rekindled for the future.

'So dry the tears. Danny Welbeck has signalled his promise out here and the memory endures of his brilliant finish against Sweden. The rejuvenating of England will continue when Jack Wilshere and Kyle Walker are fit enough to rejoin Welbeck, setting off on the road to the 2014 World Cup.

'England enhanced their reputation here, there is no doubt about that. Arriving with expectations at their lowest ebb for years, England showed resilience to draw with France, then survived turbulent moments against Sweden and Ukraine. So keep calm and carry on to qualifying for Brazil' - Henry Winter in The Daily Telegraph.

'In the end it had become excruciating for the manager Roy Hodgson, who for some weeks now has been attempting to do what so many deemed impossible. Excruciating but filled with the possibility of undreamed glory. For a few moments it looked as though he had done it but he hadn't. England, with something close to ultimate cruelty, had lost still another shoot-out.

'Hodgson had been trying to make a new team from the broken culture of England's international football and in this European Championship he had succeeded in some ways better than he could have dreamed. Here though, as the minutes ticked away, one of Europe's master players, Andrea Pirlo, worked relentlessly to destroy his work' - James Lawton in The Independent.

'Forget the penalty shoot-out. It's irrelevant. Flee from comparisons with the end of the doomed epics in Turin and St Etienne. They don't work. And don't kid yourself England are out of Euro 2012 because Ashley Young hit a crossbar. Or because Gianluigi Buffon made a save.

'No, let's be honest. England shouldn't have got anywhere near a penalty shoot-out here at the Olympic Stadium last night. It was a miracle they even took their quarter-final against Italy to extra-time. They had no answer to the sweet passing of Andrea Pirlo.

'And the only answer to the forward play of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano was to form a human barricade. The truth hurts but the truth is England should have been beaten out of sight within 90 minutes' - Oliver Holt in The Daily Mirror.

'Hodgson has two years to create a new England, his England, in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It sounds a long way off but the first qualifier is on Friday September 7 in Moldova with Ukraine coming to Wembley just four days later. The temptation could be to stick with the usual suspects and gently, gradually, increase the influx of more youngsters like 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. But there is a powerful argument for a complete clear-out of the remains of the Golden Generation.

'The big names who gave us such great expectations but delivered nothing but heartbreak. Some may fall on their swords. Some may have to be axed. But there must be changes and it's the 30-something brigade who must be in most danger. Frank Lampard is now 34. Steven Gerrard turned 32 last month. And Ashley Cole, John Terry, Gareth Barry and Scott Parker are all 31.

'So is it now time to say: Thank you and goodbye? Is it time to turn to the likes of Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jack Wilshere?' - Rob Beasley in The Sun.

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