England vs. Italy: Strong Offense Will Lead Italians to Semifinal
After winning their group in the first stage of Euro 2012, England will struggle against Italy and will not advance in the knockout stage.
The English have had successful outcomes in their first three games. A quality draw against France was followed by wins against Sweden and Ukraine. However, the squad was fortunate to come out of the group with seven points.
Against Sweden, the team played sloppy throughout and allowed two goals, one of which was an own goal by Glen Johnson. It took a great late effort by Danny Welbeck to get the go-ahead goal.
In their most recent game against Ukraine, the defense was fortunate to leave with a shutout. At one point the ball appeared to cross the line into the net, but the referees ruled that it was not a goal and play continued.
Besides that play, the Ukraine offense continually controlled the pace and attacked the goal. They held the ball for 58 percent of the game, but just could not get the ball past the keeper. Against a more skilled offense, England would have been in serious trouble.
That offense is coming up in the next game against Italy.
The Italians have gotten contributions from a number of different sources, starting with talented forwards Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. Each player had been getting their opportunities in the first two games, and both finally broke through with a goal against Ireland.
In addition, veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo still has the skill to score, as he showed against Croatia.
If Italy is able to break through with a goal or two in the contest, England will not be able to match the output. Even with the addition of Wayne Rooney, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon remains one of the best in the world at his position and will not be easy to get past.
The Italians have not played up to their ability lately. Between international friendlies and Euro 2012, the team has only won one of its last six matches. However, things finally seem to be coming together for the veteran squad.
In a win-or-go-home scenario, there is no more time to work things out. The good news is that this Italian team should be up to the challenge.
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