Sunday 25 February 2018

Andrea Pirlo claims his cheeky dinked penalty dealt a psychological blow to England

ITALY playmaker Andrea Pirlo believes his cheeky penalty changed the course of Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final with England.

Roy Hodgson's men had established a slender advantage after the first two kicks in the shoot-out when Pirlo strode up in Kiev.

Instead of being a bag of nerves, the 33-year-old beat Joe Hart with an audacious 'Panenka' chip, named after the former Czech midfielder Antonin Panenka, who made it famous during the 1976 tournament.

Immediately afterwards, Ashley Young smacked his penalty against the bar to even things up, and once Ashley Cole had missed as well, Italy were on their way to tomorrow's semi-final with Germany.

"It was really relevant to the match and our win," said Pirlo.

"This changed the course of the match.

"Hart seemed to be very confident in himself and I needed to do something to beat him.

"Penalties are a very personal thing and it seemed to be a psychological blow."

Pirlo now has his sights on Germany, a team Italy have never lost to in a knockout game at a major tournament.

Should they succeed, surely it would put him in the running for the prestigious Ballon D'Or, awarded every season to the world's best player.

However, he expects life to be much tougher against the Germans than it was for Italy against Roy Hodgson's men at the weekend.

"Our approach to the game against Germany will be the same as against England," he said.

"This is the only way we can play. But unlike England, Germany can create many threats to our defence.

"England played very a prudent and careful way.

"They were sitting back all the match, like Chelsea did in the Champions League final.

"They tried to keep that same shape.

"For them going to the penalty shoot-out was a good result."

However, even if he inspires another victory, Pirlo still does not expect to be crowned best player in the world, just as he does not anticipate being afforded the room England granted him on Sunday night.

"It is impossible for me to win the Ballon D'Or because Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo score 70 goals a year," he said.

"There have been many games in the past when I've had as much possession as against England.

"In football it happens.

"The difference is against Germany, whereas Wayne Rooney stayed further up I expect Mesut Ozil to be a great threat in and around the areas where I am playing, even though he will not necessarily do a man-marking job on me."

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