4-4-2: A hinderance or just living within our means?

So England have exited another competition on penalties, but no arguments can be made on who deserved  to face Germany in the Semi-Finals. After a first half in which they at least created some chances they were totally outplayed in the second half & extra time. When Riccardo Montolivo skewed the Italians 2nd penalty wide it looked like England dared to think they could break the "curse", but alas poor attempts from Young & Cole saw England lose on penalites (again.) What is sad that each defeat England have like this, it further compounds the pressure in future shootouts in which it is all about the psyche of the players involved. One thing I did notice is that out of the 5 Italian players who took a penalty, 3 of them were the substitutes brought on during the match. As opposed to England who had all 4 players with 120 minutes+ in their legs. Although I do admit I may be over thinking this, but I have seen this before and it must have an effect in some shootouts.
As for the match itself, I'm sure I won't be the only one to say Andrea Pirlo ran the show. Credit to him, at 33 he was exemplary for the whole match. God knows why Milan let him go last summer; Juventus enjoyed his presence this season to full effect, along with a deserved Scudetto to boot too. He made 139 passes and only 21 missed their target, this is compared to Steven Gerrard (England's best performer at this tournament) with a comparatively paltry 38. Gerrard is best when he is creating chances and hustling for the ball, he spent to much time as did Scott Parker chasing shadows not just by Pirlo but by the clever movement in the whole of the Italian midfield (let's not forget they're not donkeys either.) There was a lot of discussion before, during & after the game about the importance of Pirlo to the Italian machine, but apart from when Danny Welbeck snatched the ball a couple of times, Pirlo was allowed far too much space to control the game.

A graphical comparison of Pirlo & Gerrard
I do like the choice of Roy Hodgson as England manager; he has the right credentials for the job & he has had a very successful career, but you can't help but feel that no team playing with such a rigid formation is ever going to regularly succeed in international football... without utilising a lot of grit & luck. It must be remembered that England did ride their luck in the match itself; via Balotellis spurned chances/over ambitious shooting and several close shaves with the woodwork. At this level of football possession is king and 37% tells its own story, even in the previously (won) matches this stat was around the early 40's! But England's problem is that we technically lack compared to even some smaller nations, let alone the big boys of international football like Italy & Spain. But this is a problem that needs to be sorted out an early age and for the current England team right now Hodgson is the perfect man to lead the team. Credit to the FA for this appointment, shows they can do something right after all! Given another 2 years perfecting this solid but sometimes impenetrative style of football under Hodgson who's to say England can't go all the way (with the aforementioned grit & luck) in Brazil 2014; if we qualify that is! :)


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