It was songwriter Billy Bragg who opined, “This isn’t a court of justice, son, this is a court of law.” And so it goes that in penalty-kick shootouts, justice doesn’t always prevail with the better team on the day winning. But in the aftermath of Italy’s 4-2 shootout victory over England after extra time finished scoreless, there can be no disputing the fact the better footballing side emerged triumphant.
The more adaptive team won, as well. After a frenetic opening 15 minutes during which both sides created good chances, the defensive responsibilities in the center of Italy’s midfield looked to be a bit too much for creative hub Andrea Pirlo. So Italy manager Cesare Prandelli made the simplest of adjustments, sliding Daniele De Rossi more alongside Pirlo, and allowing Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo to take on more advanced roles. This had the effect of providing another outlet to link defense to attack and rendered useless the efforts of England forward Danny Welbeck to shadow Pirlo.
The result was almost complete and utter domination thereafter. Sure, England threatened occasionally on set pieces, and looked a bit livelier after the second-half introduction of forward Andy Carroll, but it was Italy that owned the ball and created the better scoring opportunities. In fact, once the Azzurri began setting up shop in England’s half, De Rossi even found some opportunities to get forward and had a glorious chance to put Italy on top in the 48th minute, somehow contriving to shoot wide from all of six yards out. Earlier De Rossi had come agonizingly close to scoring as well, but his audacious effort in the third minute from 30 yards hit the post.