Champagne performance from vintage Pirlo
A midfield masterclass from Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo helped the Azzurri oust England on penalties to reach the semi-finals, and ensured he was the Castrol EDGE top performer, according to UEFA.com.
Italy`s sparkling midfielder Andrea Pirlo put in a champagne performance to inspire his side to a penalty shoot-out defeat of England in their UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-final at the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv.
The Juventus maestro was peerless and topped the Castrol EDGE Index with a score of 9.56 courtesy of a performance that oozed class, as he orchestrated Italy`s domination of their opponents.
Always in command, the Azzurri`s 815 completed passes dwarfed England`s 320, and Pirlo was responsible for a remarkable 117 of them. Only Federico Balzaretti came close to that figure, and his 93 still pales in comparison. This was not a case of quantity over quality, however. Pirlo`s vision, range and incisiveness were second to none, producing 31 passes into the attacking third and carving out a host of chances for Italy with 19 deliveries into key areas.
The 2006 FIFA World Cup winner gave everything for the cause against England. He covered the third greatest distance on the pitch at over 15.21km, forced keeper Joe Hart into two saves at one end and blocked several efforts at the other in a tireless showing.
Such a feat, at 33 years of age and following a career-high season in terms of club appearances, is impressive in itself. But Pirlo also managed not to concede a single foul in the 120 minutes and then stepped up to coolly clip in an Antonín Panenka-style penalty under pressure as Italy trailed in the shoot-out.
Glen Johnson`s efforts at either end of the pitch earned him a 9.53 rating and second place, while a clean sheet and a top-class save from Johnson ensured Azzurri No1 Gianluigi Buffon finished third on 9.50.
Castrol EDGE Index: England v Italy
1. Andrea Pirlo (ITA) 9.56
2. Glen Johnson (ENG) 9.53
3. Gianluigi Buffon (ITA) 9.50
4. Mario Balotelli (ITA) 9.25
5. Leonardo Bonucci (ITA) 9.21
4.75 – England managed only 2.75 shots on target per game at UEFA EURO 2012; only Ukraine, Greece and the Republic of Ireland produced fewer.
14 – Italy are now unbeaten in their last 14 competitive games.
1 – England have now won only one of seven penalty shoot-outs in which they have taken part (beating Spain at EURO `96).
815 – Completed passes by Italy, more than doubling England`s total of 320.
Andrea Pirlo: "I didn`t fear an upset as England barely created anything but just tried to defend and drag us to penalties. We stayed in control and in the end we won. We dominated the encounter and it`s a pity we didn`t take our chances during the 90 minutes or extra time. At least penalties sent the right team through."