Sunday, June 24, 2012

Euro 2012 Quarterfinal #4 Prediction: American Style

3-0 in quarterfinals predictions so far, but today's game is the toughest to predict because there is very little separating the two teams.  Both England and Italy, two traditional powerhouses, had low expectations entering the tournament.  Italy is entombed by its match fixing scandal that forced defender Domenico Criscito to pull out of the tournament days before likely being selected to the final team.  Meanwhile, England named Roy Hodgson its manager only weeks before the tournament was set to begin.  Why the late decision?  Because former coach Fabio Capello would not strip the then English captain John Terry of his captaincy in light of his alleged racial abuse.  By the way, John Terry was still selected to the team and still is featured in a prominent role much to the chagrin of some black players.  This is another reason why sports is the best reality TV.

Italy's American Team Doppelgänger: Syracuse University Men's Basketball Team. Whether it's child molestation, homophobia, or racism allegations surrounding these teams, they just seem to get better.  Somehow, these teams find a way to unite and find a way to win.  When Italy was faced with a similar scandal in 2006, they went on to win the World Cup.  Unity through adversity is the name of the game for the Azzurri.

England's American Doppelgänger: San Francisco 49ers.  Both team's hired new coaches and the style of play has not been well received by everyone, especially in England's case.  The beautiful game has become the pragmatic game for England, who coincidentally resemble the play of Italian squads in the past who are looking to win 1-0 and call it a day.  With that being said, England looks very well organized and has caused every team facing them problems with their stifling defense.  The offense is doing just enough to win them games, but now they are facing an opponent who will be just as prepared as them.  And just as talented.

Prediction: This will not be a high scoring game and the ball will primarily will reside in the midfield area.  The key to this game will be the attitude put forth by the team selections.  England, with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have something that Italy does not: elite speed.  If one or more of those two start the game and if both see the pitch at the same time, it could really cause some problems for the Italians.  Stopping Wayne Rooney will also need to be a priority for the Italians, but his game plays right into the hands of the Italian style of clogging up the middle of the pitch, which would also open up more space for guys like Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings.  I, however, strongly believe that Ashley Young and James Milner will start on the outside and that England will have to play from behind because of it.  But, in what will be the most drama filled quarterfinal, the English will advance via the penalty shootout.  England 1 (Roooonneeyy), Italy 1 (Balotelli) (England wins PK 4-3)

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