Italy has a tradition of given the world fine artists. Unlike Donatello and Giotto, key figures in Italian Renaissance Art, in Andrea Pirlo, Italy has given the world a real footballing artist. The Juventus player’s impact at Euro 2012 has been heralded, yet it seems his masterpiece is not yet complete.
It took a penalty shoot-out for the Azzurri to seal their path to this semi-final, but in truth the match against England should not have gone 120 minutes. Italy dominated the game for long stretches and should have finished the Three Lions off long before the spot kick lottery.
The game summed up both Italy’s promise and problems in the space of two hours. Dominant with the ball, Pirlo pulling the strings, strikers creating space and defenders organised. Yet they somehow conspired to not score and the final ball was lacking at times. Germany with their youthful endeavour, incisive passing and movement will not be as forgiving as England.
Against the backdrop of yet another domestic scandal, Italy have performed with unity, purpose and a determination which history shows makes them formidable tournament opponents, whatever the circumstances surrounding the team.
Cesare Prandelli will need his team to bring elements in their performance from the draw against Spain, where they dealt with movement and periods without possession to create openings of their own. Combined with their ability to dominate a game, demonstrated in the quarter final, they can be a threat to any of the other semi-finalists.
Much has been said about Pirlo since Sunday; the playmaker has grabbed the headlines for his array of passing, ball retention and equally for his audaciously sublime, chipped penalty. Yet, he has been dictating play for over a decade and his presence will not be as unfamiliar to Germany as it seemed to be to England.
With that in mind, it is the Azzurri’s other match winners that will have to step up to the plate. Antonio Cassano, whose career, let alone participation in Euro 2012, was in doubt after heart trouble in November 2011, has been the centre of their attacking moves. Working between the lines to create openings and able to turn in the smallest of spaces, he is critical to Italy’s chances.
Danielle Di Rossi’s energy and dynamic midfield play will need to be at its optimum to combat a robust and mobile German midfield. In defence, Italy will be hoping Giorgio Chiellini is fit to return to bolster their back line.
While Pirlo can be Italy’s Michelangelo, the artist, in Mario Balotelli they have another Michelangelo; their very own Ninja Turtle. A player capable of getting his team into trouble as much as out of it, recognised as a game changer – albeit for either side. There are two extremes of the Manchester City striker; world class or classless.
Against England, he was heavily involved, creating chances and space and improvising the spectacular. He took his penalty with a calm precision and it is this version of Balotelli his teammates and country will hope takes the field in Warsaw.
Italy have reached the semi-finals without much of the hype or excitement that surrounds the other three sides. Its crunch time for Prandelli and his men; despite all that has gone on with match-fixing, a passionate nation expects and with entrenched tournament pedigree the optimism has sound basis.
Andrea Pirlo is the artist, the architect. The stage is set for this magician of few words but decisive actions to get a few strokes closer to completing his masterpiece. The sort of masterpiece that could, just could, bring another Coppa to Italia.
Tags: Andrea Pirlo, Euro 2012, Germany, Italy