Andrea Pirlo – A god amongst men
I was going to discuss how Andrea Pirlo has never been given the full credit he deserves and how he should be rightfully placed alongside the demi-gods of years gone by. The piece now almost writes itself.
His performance last night bordered on the ridiculous. For most of the game despite their effort England’s midfield could get nowhere near him and the likes of Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard were left chasing his shadow.
He dictated the match like a quarter-back, constantly finding oceans of space and then picking out whichever teammate he wanted. His probing was relentless and if the players ahead of him were more clinical, Italy would of been out of sight long before the 90 minutes was up.
His importance to the side could not of been more noticeable. Every time an Italian player was in possession of the ball they instinctively looked to find their heartbeat. When he was rarely unavailable it meant that England’s main attacking threat Wayne Rooney was doing his job of marking the Juventus man. This resulted in Rooney being unable to threaten when his side won the ball back and come extra-time he could hardly muster up the energy to run.
Pirlo’s effect on the penalty shoot-out was also decisive. When he stepped up to the spot the pressure was on due to Riccardo Montolivo’s miss. Pirlo made a mockery of the moment by dinking his penalty down the middle of the goal as though he was chipping a plastic golf ball in his living room.
English goalkeeper Joe Hart could not believe it and the Italians almost laughed as they celebrated. The psychological advantage immediately shifted the Azzurri’s way and the shoot-out was soon won.
On Twitter Rio Ferdinand described his performance as ‘a pure footballing masterclass’ and it has been coming.
After a brilliant unbeaten Serie A season in Turin, Pirlo’s first act of the tournament was a dazzling turn of foot and a deftly weighted through ball to provide the assist for Italy’s opening goal against champions Spain.
As the ball hit the back of the net there was a realisation that Italy were not just in Poland and Ukraine to make up the numbers.
Since then the successful route they took out of a tough Group C was also largely navigated by Pirlo. Of the four goals Italy have scored he has set-up two and another was an unstoppable free-kick from his ever-reliable right foot.
Pirlo being a key figure is obviously no surprise, he has been a linchpin in the Italy side for nearly 10 years with the midfield metronome even being named Man of the Match in the glory of the 2006 World Cup final.
At 33 his performances somehow seem to be getting better and his nations hopes of rising to the top of European football rest on his elegant shoulders.
The Germans await in what will be a close semi-final. However imperious the Germany midfield is, if they hope to progress to the final they will have to stop Pirlo – a player who is now undoubtedly regarded as one of Italy’s, and therefore the world’s, greatest ever.