This title has been framed properly. Did Italy beat England? Absolutely. They were the better team all afternoon, even though you wondered if the Anglophones were trying to lure the Guineas in, praying mantis-style, before they were set to strike and ruin The Boot Shaped Island’s year.
At the same time, England lost this game and, surprisingly or not surprisingly, it was how they always lost these games. They were a little cocky, a little sure of themselves, and appeared to be already looking ahead to next week.
The pass was still in the air, and they were planning their jukes.
For most of this Euro, England had kept this part of their game in check. They weren’t delusional about their chances, and neither were their fans. They knew they were short-staffed, and they know they couldn’t brag about anything they’ve done on a soccer pitch since 1966.
England doesn’t have to play fancy and dive for calls, which is why they don’t.
They’re tough-ass mother truckers and they can play soccer in any conditions – rain, sleet, snow, or hail. It’s why their countrymen can play in any league at any time.
It’s also why they play down to their competition. At least, when they’re not playing up to them.
On Sunday, England had a real chance to advance to the semifinals, but they trapped themselves into 90 minutes of cagey soccer with the second-best ball-moving club in the European Championships (props to Spain and their caliente kickball).
England refused to shoot, they refused to control the pace, and they refused to capitalize on any opportunities they could have.
This is of no knock to Italy, who were the better team and may actually wind up in the finals against either Spain or Portugal. The Italians hit posts and ran into the suddenly stifling play of Joe Hart.
But, in England, you had a club and a country that had somehow found themselves in pretty good position to outdo their own ability and lock down a spot in the Final Four. And then, they counted their chickens. They stopped doing what had gotten them there, which was exercising desperation.
And so, now, London and its boroughs can look forward to 2014.
White Cover Staff
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