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Match Number Eight — Sunday 24th June 2012

Natsional'nyî Sportyvnyî Kompleks, Pechersk, Kyiv

Referee: Pedro Proença (Portugal)

Assistants: Bertino Miranda and Ricardo Santos (Portugal)

Additional: Manuel de Sousa and Duarte Gomes (Portugal)

Despite a six-year gap since their last penalty shootout, England found themselves in a very familiar situation; their fourth major quarter-final ending in spot kicks, and for the third time, in the quarter-finals of the European Championship. Their only shootout victory was back in 1996, now a dim and distant memory.

Italy had suffered more than most in high-profile penalty shootouts; their first four were all defeats and they had to endure three successive World Cup eliminations in the 1990's due to their inability to find the target from twelve yards. These moments famously included Diego Maradona's Argentina putting Italy out of their own tournament at the semi-final stage in 1990 (the night before England's first penalty shootout defeat, to West Germany) and the heartache of seeing Brazil lift the trophy in 1994, following Roberto Baggio's costly miss.

They recovered, however, to defeat the Netherlands in the Euro 2000 semi-final, and then banished the 1994 nightmare by defeating France on penalties in the 2006 World Cup Final. This was followed, two years later, though, by a quarter-final defeat to the eventual winners, Spain, in the European Championship, their most recent shootout.


Joe Hart (Manchester City and England) aged 25.

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy) aged 34.

Hart was making his 22nd appearance for England. He had yet to face a penalty in a full international, but he had starred in a rare shootout victory for England Under-21's in the semi-finals of the 2009 European Championship against their Swedish hosts. Hart saved one penalty, with his feet, and scored another, whilst also, remarkably, picking up a yellow card for speaking to an opponent before one of the penalties, which meant that he was suspended for the final. He had ended the 2011-12 season with an FA Premier League winner's medal, as his club won their first title since 1968.

Buffon, Italy's captain, was a very experienced goalkeeper, with 118 international caps to his name. In the past ten years, he had been involved in penalty shootouts in the 2003 Champions League final (which Juventus lost), the 2006 World Cup final (which Italy won) and the 2008 European Championship quarter-final (which Italy lost).

Despite losing the Champions League final to Milan, at Old Trafford, Buffon did manage to save two penalties; one with a full-length diving save to his right and the other with his feet. He did not save any in the World Cup-winning shootout, but he did save spot kicks during games at the 2002 World Cup (against Korea Republic, low down to his right) and at Euro 2008 (against Romania, a spectacular block with his right arm and leg in the air, as he dived to his left), before saving one penalty, against Spain (low down to his left), during their shootout defeat.

Juventus had won the Italian Serie A, with Buffon only conceding 16 league goals during the season.

Kickers (Italy):

1)       Mario Balotelli (aged 21) - Manchester City

12th appearance, 2 goals.

Scored 17 goals in all competitions for the Premier League winners, including 5 penalties, in the 2011-12 season.

Completed his first full game of the tournament, after being substituted in the first two games, and then coming on as a substitute to score against the Republic of Ireland.

2)       Riccardo Montolivo (aged 27) - Fiorentina

35th appearance, one goal.

Scored 4 times for his club, including one penalty, in the 2011-12 season and was about to join Milan for the following season.

Completed his first full game of the tournament, after making one previous substitute appearance, against Croatia, in Italy's second match.

3)       Andrea Pirlo (aged 33) - Juventus

87th appearance, 10 goals.

Scored three times for his club in the 2011-12 season and won his second successive Italian league title, having won it with Milan, the previous year.

Completed all four games in the tournament and opened the scoring against Croatia in Italy's second match.

Missed Milan's second penalty in the unsuccessful shootout against Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final. Dudek, the goalkeeper, had handed the ball to Pirlo, then danced around on the line, before taking three steps and saving the shot with his right hand. It was hit low to the right with the side of Pirlo's right foot.

Scored the first penalty of the 2006 World Cup final shootout, side-footing the ball, with his right foot, down the middle, gently rising into the top of the net, as the 'keeper dived to the left.

Missed the 2008 shootout with Spain as he was suspended for the game.

4)       Antonio Nocerino (aged 27) - Milan

13th appearance, no goals.

Scored 10 league goals for his club in the 2011-12 season.

Replaced De Rossi in the 80th minute, having made one previous appearance in the tournament, as a 90th minute substitute in the opening game, against Spain.

5)       Alessandro Diamanti (aged 29) - Bologna

3rd appearance, no goals.

Scored 8 league goals for his club in the 2011-12 season, one of which was a penalty.

Spent the 2009-10 season with West Ham United, scoring 4 penalties.

Replaced Cassano in the 78th minute, having replaced the same player in the previous game, against the Republic of Ireland, his only previous appearance in the tournament.

Kickers (England):

1)       Steven Gerrard (aged 32) - Liverpool

96th appearance, 19 goals.

Scored 9 goals in all competitions for Liverpool in the 2011-12 season, 3 of them penalties.

Captained his club to both major domestic finals, winning the Carling Cup on penalties, though Gerrard missed the first kick of the shootout. It was hit with the side of his right foot to the left, at medium height, where the Cardiff goalkeeper dived and pushed it onto the crossbar and out.

Took England's third penalty in the 2006 shootout against Portugal, when he shot, with his right foot, only slightly to the right of centre, at medium height, and the goalkeeper took a step forward before comfortably pushing it away with his right hand, as he dived to the right.

Had not scored for England for almost two years.

England's captain had completed all four games in the tournament.

2)       Wayne Rooney (aged 26) - Manchester United

76th appearance, 29 goals.

Scored 37 goals for club and country in the 2011-12 season. 9 of them were penalties.

Missed England's last two shootouts, against Portugal, because he had been substituted in 2004, and he had been dismissed in 2006.

Scored in shootouts for United in the 2005 FA Cup Final and the 2007 FA Community Shield.

Completed his first full game of the tournament, after missing the first two games, due to suspension and then scoring the only goal against Ukraine, before being substituted with three minutes remaining.

3)       Ashley Young (aged 26) - Manchester United

25th appearance, 6 goals.

Scored 12 goals for club and country in the 2011-12 season.

Top scorer for England in the 2011-12 season, with 4 goals.

Scored twice in the same penalty shootout for England Under-21's in the 2007 European Championship semi-final, when losing to the Netherlands.

Completed all four games in his first major tournament.

4)       Ashley Cole (aged 31) - Chelsea

98th appearance, no goals.

Had not scored for Chelsea for over two years.

Ended the 2011-12 season by winning the Champions League and the FA Cup with Chelsea.

In 2004, he had converted England's sixth penalty against Portugal, when he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, after shooting low with his left foot, to the left of centre.

He would have taken England's fifth penalty in the 2006 shootout against Portugal, but they had already lost before he could take his kick.

Converted Chelsea's fourth spot kick in each of the 2008 and 2012 Champions League finals. Against Manchester United in the 2008 final (which Chelsea lost), he shot low with his left foot. The goalkeeper, van der Sar, could only push it into the right side-netting. Four years later, against Bayern Munich, he hit a left-foot shot at medium height, hitting the inside of the right side-netting, without the 'keeper getting a touch.

Completed all four games in the tournament.

It is believed that Glen Johnson (27 years old, with 40 caps and one goal) would have taken England's fifth penalty. He had scored once for Liverpool in the 2011-12 season, but he also scored Liverpool's fifth and final penalty in the successful Carling Cup Final shootout. Johnson had completed all four games in the tournament. The other five outfield players had all scored for their clubs that season. Three of them (Andy Carroll, Joleon Lescott and Theo Walcott) had scored for England in the tournament. John Terry had previously netted for England in their 2004 shootout with Portugal, but he had since had the traumatic experience of missing the kick that could have given Chelsea the Champions League title in 2008. Goalkeeper, Joe Hart had previously scored in a semi-final shootout for England Under-21's. Jordan Henderson was the least experienced of the remaining players and he had been substituted before his club's Carling Cup Final shootout.

Extra Time

England had been outplayed by Italy from half-time onwards. Pirlo had dominated the midfield area and it had led to a succession of chances for the Italians that they had been unable to convert. England had defended well, but they had sacrificed their own attacking ambitions in order to frustrate their opponents. As a result, they had barely created a chance of their own since the first half. Extra time had not seen many chances, though Italy had hit the post through Diamanti.

The Shootout (Italy first)

1-0 Balotelli strode up confidently to take the first penalty against his club mate. The two were obviously great friends and each was struggling to keep a straight face. Balotelli hit the bottom left corner with a right-foot shot hit with the side of his foot. Hart dived the right way, but could not reach it.

1-1 Gerrard's kick was almost identical to Balotelli's. He shot, with his right foot, and found the bottom left corner, with Buffon unable to reach it, despite his full-length dive.

Montolivo tried to match the previous kicks by hitting it right-footed towards the bottom left, but it passed narrowly beyond the left-hand post, with Hart, once again, diving towards it.

1-2 Rooney leaned to his right, but shot right-footed, at medium height, to the left corner, with Buffon diving the opposite way.

2-2 Pirlo gently chipped the ball, with his right foot, straight down the middle, to land in the back of the net, with Hart, again, having dived to the left.

Young fired, with his right foot, straight down the middle, but squarely hit the crossbar, as Buffon dived to the right.

3-2 Nocerino ran up and tried to fool Hart by slamming his right foot down, but then side-footed, with his right, into the bottom left corner, as Hart went the other way.

Cole shot with his left foot, low to the right of centre, where Buffon dived and comfortably collected the ball.

4-2 Diamanti side-footed, with his left-foot, low towards the left-hand corner, with Hart going the wrong way.

Why did England lose?

England pinned all of their hopes on finally winning a penalty shootout, and tried out a few tactics in an attempt to unsettle the opposition. Unfortunately, they were outdone by a little psychology from an experienced opponent. Before the kicks were taken, Joe Hart was surrounded by the other goalkeepers in the squad and, with the help of a tablet PC and a piece of paper brandished by Jack Butland, he appeared to be being reminded of the penalty-taking styles of the Italian players. We were told that he had studied the past ten years of kicks taken by their opponents. On the other hand, his opposite number was quoted as saying that the only videos that he had been watching were of a more salacious nature!

Of the five players selected from each team, England had the more experienced kickers, though Italy, crucially, had two individuals who had seen it all at the top level and exuded self-confidence and belief, which had a positive impact on their less-experienced team-mates and an intimidating effect on their opponents. England began well and it was an Italian (Montolivo) that showed the first sign of weakness, by attempting to match the precision of the first two kickers. Hart was busily trying to portray himself as a super-confident individual, jumping up and down on the line, smiling at the kickers, waving his arms and sticking his tongue out. At one point, the referee had a word with him to calm down. His behaviour may have worked with Montolivo, but Pirlo had seen it all before and had his own trick up his sleeve. Observing Hart's antics, he revealed afterwards that he'd decided that Hart was so hyperactive that he'd be too eager to dive to the side, hence his gentle chip down the middle leaving the goalkeeper left on his back, with his legs in the air, looking slightly embarrassed.

A number of players have scored from penalties like this in the past (the Czech, Panenka, being the first, in 1976), but rarely has it had such an impact on a penalty shootout. Firstly, Italy were behind at that point. If Pirlo had missed, Young would have had the opportunity to put England 3-1 ahead and on the brink of victory. To attempt such a kick at that moment showed extreme confidence from a player who'd actually scored by sending his kick straight down the middle in a World Cup Final shootout (something Hart should have know about). The remaining kicks showed how much Pirlo's inspiration had changed the dynamics, as England quickly slumped from their winning position to a tame submission. There were no further misses from the two remaining (and relatively inexperienced) Italians, whilst two experienced Englishmen could not find the net.

Young, who had had a disappointing tournament, after a fairly successful season, appeared to be trying to fire the perfect penalty past Buffon and hit it a little too high. Nocerino and Diamanti both sent Hart the wrong way, with textbook penalties. Cole's kick was the biggest surprise. He had been in this situation many times before and never faltered, but for some reason he was to shatter England's crumbling hopes, with a weak effort that gave Buffon one of his easiest penalty saves. He certainly didn't need to observe any videos to get through this shootout.

Yet again, England fell short in a penalty shootout. They seemed to have prepared more than ever before and, in Joe Hart, they have a goalkeeper prepared to impose himself on the opposition, a useful technique against the less-confident. Unfortunately for England, on this occasion, they were outwitted by experience. Having conceded so much during the game and started the shootout so confidently, they allowed themselves to be caught out by a wily old campaigner and didn't have the strength to fight back. They deserve some sympathy. It was a better showing than their previous penalties experience (in 2006), and they really shouldn't have been given the opportunity to win a tie that they were distinctly second best in, but they can take great heart from the fact that they are becoming a little wiser to the psychological elements of the dreaded penalty kicks. England's time will come and we will all breathe a massive sigh of relief!

One note of caution is that, not only are England in the midst of a diabolical run of unsuccessful penalty shootouts (now six in a row), but they have also lost their last four quarter-finals. Indeed, just six weeks later, the Great Britain team, containing eight England players of 23 years of age and under, faced a penalty shootout against Korea Republic in the Olympic quarter-finals at the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff. To no-one's surprise, it was the Koreans that progressed to challenge for the medals.

We live in hope that these experiences are so traumatic to the individuals involved that they will do everything in their power to avoid it happening again.