I have been a fanatic of the Italian national football team, the Azzurri and have followed their progress quite fascinatingly since their hurting loss to France in the final of Euro 2000.
Not taking anything from the La Furia Roja (Spain), they are currently the best country in playing the game as it ought to be played, probably even better than Pele’s Brazil of 1970.
The Spanish have had the reputation of playing like no other team; the beautiful style of possession that is so craved by the English and with the ability to produce playmakers like Xavi and David Silva.
However, in Euro 2012, I witnessed something else. The Azzurri too can pass the ball impressively and sometimes, even more beautiful to the eye than the way the Spanish do it. If there is a country that has successfully copied and pasted the Spanish style, it is Italy.
In their first group match game against Spain, the game was somewhat balanced. Although Spain took the largest share of possession at 60 percent, it wasn’t clear who would win the game and it ended in a 1-1 draw.
Unlike in the other games where Spain has an upper hand from kickoff, Italy held the ball well, passed it well and defended well, and as a matter of fact, forced Casillas to make more saves than his opposite number Buffon.
When Italy met England in the quarter finals, most of my mates, both the England fanatics and neutrals, thought that Italy was a gone case, but in the end we all witness one of the highlights of the tournaments.
The game produced the lowest ball possession in the whole tournament; England had only 37 percent of the ball, although English press will slightly push it up to 38 percent to save some blushes.
Andrea Pirlo was miles ahead of Steven Gerrard in the creative midfield department and hadn’t it been for the goalposts, England’s misery would have been worse than losing on penalties.
Need I talk about Italy vs. Germany? Germany was dubbed the favourite after Spain to win the prestigious trophy, but the Azzurri had other ideas. With an inspired Mario Balotelli and sublime passes from the likes of Riccardo Motolivo, the Germans had a day they won’t want to remember.
The undoing of Italy was a blend of unfortunate events and a thin tired squad, which the Spanish exposed and roasted in the final.
Having played the final after only two days of rest, unlike their opponents who had three days, really turned the heat on Pirlo and company.
In the final, Italy suffered two serious injuries; one to defender Giorgio Cheillini and another to Thiago Motta, moreover after Prandelli had used up all the substitutions, meaning that they had to play most of second half with ten men. Such a setback couldn’t help the Azzurri but open them to the ruthless Spanish attack.
I am of the view that had it been that both teams had got the same time to rest, the result would have been strikingly different.
Unlike in Euro 2000 when the Italians had every reason to lament after an agonizing last gasp loss to France, this time round they can hold their heads high, proudly knowing that they played some of the most entertaining football of the tournament.
RushAfrican On Twitter