No glorious failure this time for Three Lions
So often in major tournaments England has come away lamenting the lottery of penalties for denying their brave lions a potential chance to emerge with the trophy. On this occasion no-one could deny that it would be something approaching a travesty had England progressed to the semifinals.
After an early spell when Roy Hodgson's side took the game to their opponents, they spent almost the entire remainder of the 120 minutes hanging on as Italy did everything but put the ball in the net. England had rode their luck getting to the quarterfinals and did not warrant any further place in the competition. On reflection English fans may welcome elimination to Italy in that it avoided the likely humiliation their team would have suffered at the hands of Germany.
Milan releasing Andrea Pirlo may have been the worst decision in football history
Yes, we knew it at the time when Milan allowed him to leave on a free to Juventus last summer. It was even more obvious when Juventus took away Milan's Scudetto. And, yes, it was blatantly apparent in Italy's opening game of Euro 2012 as he more than held his own against Spain's pass-master Xavi.
But as Andrea Pirlo ran the show for the vast majority of Italy's quarterfinal with England, one couldn't escape the urge to constantly chuckle in bewilderment at Milan and their manager Massimiliano Allegri's decision to let the playmaker leave to their fierce rivals last summer.
The 33-year-old's Panenka penalty in Kiev not only summed up the coolness of the man, but it also turned the tide in the shootout inextricably toward Italy.
England cannot keep relying on unfit stars
David Beckham in 2002, Wayne Rooney in 2006, Gareth Barry in 2012 and now Rooney again in 2012. England persist on putting faith in players not at their physical peak coming into major tournaments and continue to suffer as a result. There was no injury drama this time around, but Rooney's two-game suspension meant he had not started a game for five weeks when he took the field against Ukraine.
After Rooney scored against the co-hosts to break his drought in major tournaments, expectations were raised that he would be at his peak come the quarterfinal. But Rooney had looked badly off the pace against Ukraine and appeared equally so against Italy. In a team with limited quality, Rooney was always going to need to be at his best for England to succeed. It says much about England's continued desperate reliance on their few talented players that Rooney was left on for the whole 120 minutes, despite failing to have a single shot on target and completing only just over half of his passes in the attacking third.
Italy will pay for not putting England away
Having pushed England back for the much of the night in Kiev, Italy were unable to turn their 64 percent possession and 20 shots on target into a single goal. Some of Cesare Prandelli's side's buildup play is exceptional, but the Azzurri have so far failed to display a ruthless cutting edge through much of their time at the championship.
Already with the disadvantage of having two days less rest than their semi-final opponents Germany, Italy may live to regret having to exert themselves for so long in a game that should have been won far more comfortably.
Possessing one of the tournament's oldest squads, Italy face a massive task to live with the pace and energy with which Euro 2012's youngest squad, Germany, play.
English characteristics die hard
Much had been made of Hodgson constraining the gung-ho style of England in favor of a more conservative, regimented approach. But when push came to shove, England was largely undone by some very traditional characteristics of the country's football culture.
Many English fans as well as much of the country's media love to herald the bull-dog spirit characterized by players flinging their bodies at the ball. No better has this been epitomized than by John Terry being widely praised for his performances in Euro 2012. But look closer and many of Terry's heroic interventions were merely the center back recovering for his own errors; namely before his [behind the] goal-line clearance against Ukraine and preventing Mario Balotelli from getting a shot in on goal against Italy having played him onside in the first place. The great defenders rarely require such dramatic interventions.
True bravery in football is the belief to control the ball under pressure, to keep possession rather than hitting a hopeful ball forward. There were brief signs that England might do this against Italy as they had a fine opening spell, but quickly the players once again became unable to string passes together.
The sad culmination came when Andy Carroll arrived on the pitch on the hour mark and long ball after long ball was hit up to the big man. That by far England's most frequent pass combination was Joe Hart to Carroll says it all.