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England 0 (2), Italy 0 (4): England is England is England

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Italy get the deserved victory over England, winning 4-2 on penalties and fighting through a valiant England effort to play anything other than football. We got the England we expected, and while they very well could have come away with the win, there's little evidence to say they deserve anything other than a trip home.

Roy Hodgson opted to stick with the same eleven he selected in the win over Ukraine, with Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney up front, James Milner and Ashley Young on the flanks with Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker in the middle, and Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, and Ashley Cole across the back with Joe Hart in goal. Disappointing for Andy Carroll to be on the bench but not surprising, but as it turned out, he--along with Jordan Henderson--would get plenty of time on the pitch.

Much of the action worth watching came within five minutes, as Daniele De Rossi sliced a half-volley past Joe Hart and off the post with the first chance of the match, and nearly straightaway at the other end Glen Johnson pushed an effort from short range on Gigi Buffon's goal, only for the ageless keeper to palm it away with a fine reaction save. On that evidence we were in for a treat, but we all knew that it wouldn't last.

As the match wore on Italy proved to be the only side with an interest in pushing forward, with England sinking deep and finding few opportunities to counter. Johnson's was the only shot on goal they mustered, and even though they were more dangerous--or at least had an outlet for the hoofing--after Andy Carroll came on for Danny Welbeck, Italy were the only side that looked like winning.

They only had themselves to blame, as their inability to convert the number of chances they created leaving England with hopes of pulling something off late. That would have demanded that England try to respond, which they never did, but regardless, the Italians had a number of clear-cut chances to take the lead after De Rossi's early effort--England blocked 13 Italian shots, and Alessandro Diamanti nearly curled one in at the far post with a cross, and he later played a perfect ball for Antonio Nocerino to head in, only for the substitute to be whistled offside just a few minutes before the end of extra time. For their part, Hodgson's side did...nothing in the extra thirty minutes and created zero chances.

They looked to catch a break in the penalty shootout when Riccardo Montolivo missed to Joe Hart's right, allowing them to go up 2-1 when Wayne Rooney sent Buffon the wrong way with a terrifically-struck effort. Everything changed after Andrea Pirlo passively chipped his in, though, and with Ashley Young crashing it off the bar and Ashley Cole's effort saved, successful penalties from Nocerino and Diamanti sent the Italians through.

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It's not terribly interesting to recap either the match or the performance of the Liverpool players involved, even though a few of them were among England's best on the day and in the tournament as a whole. Watching England--much like watching Liverpool for the first half of the 2010-2011 season--was more chore than entertainment, and it was mostly just painful.

I am glad for Steven Gerrard, who had something of a renaissance on the pitch after he faded towards the end of the Premier League season, and finally experienced some level of success as England captain despite fading badly today. Glen Johnson was one of England's better performers and arguably their best defender in the competition, and I'd say he changed his naysayers' minds, but most of them are so far into the media narrative of him as a one-dimensional fullback that no amount of evidence could convince them otherwise. He saved John Terry from culpability on more than a few occasions, and he should feel proud of what he's done over the past four matches.

Evaluating Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson is a bit more difficult, with the former getting only one start and the latter featuring minimally as a substitute. There's at least more to look at for Carroll, who was active today and did well to win nearly every aerial challenge in which he was involved. That he was often heading into space has little to do with the player himself, and it'd be fair to say that he had a good Euros on the whole.

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That pretty much wraps up any sort of Liverpool-related interest for Euro 2012, with only Pepe Reina left from Liverpool's squad. Barring any sort of fitness concerns for Iker Casillas we won't get a chance to see him do much other than celebrate, though, so that's that on our end. We'll continue to cover the remaining matches, but with a lull in the action we'll turn attention back to Liverpool and the assorted whatevers we can drum up over the next few days.

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