Italy eventually triumphed on penalties but the contest should have been decided far earlier. The Azzurri enjoyed close to two-thirds of the possession and had 20 shots on target to England’s four.
Key to this domination of the game was the control Italy exercised over midfield. Cesare Prandelli opted for a narrow diamond again, Andrea Pirlo at the base, Daniele de Rossi and Claudio Marchisio on either side and Riccardo Montolivo — replacing an injured Thiago Motta — at the tip.
England gave Pirlo a free hand and suffered. For some time, it was Danny Wellbeck who closed him down but for the most part he met with no pressure and completely dictated play.
Pirlo found Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli repeatedly, giving the English defence not a moment’s respite. It was a different matter that the finishing was not up to scratch.
Montolivo was also quietly impressive (his miss in the shoot-out notwithstanding), drifting into tricky positions and keeping the ball moving.
Italy’s dominance of central midfield — where it outnumbered the opposition — was not surprising but England was expected to carry a greater threat on the flanks.
The Italians’ narrow setup meant that the only width came from the fullbacks Federico Balzaretti and Ignazio Abate, who pushed quite high up; but rather than try and get behind them, James Milner and Ashley Young were content to sit deep. Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole made a few runs, but with little regularity or support.
As the game wore on, Roy Hodgson’s 4-4-2 sat deep to play on the counter-attack, seeing little of the ball. With better service to Theo Walcott or greater support around Andy Carroll, something might have been achieved. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.