Why Italy lost Euro 2012
With everyone writing about how Spain won, I decided to go against the grain and write about why Italy lost.
Italy’s European championship campaign came to an abrupt end with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain.
Italy was outplayed, outclassed and outmatched by a superior Spanish outfit.
But why was Spain so clinical in their display?
There were three crucial tactical, mental and physical factors, which heavily contributed to Italy’s defeat.
1. Italy relied too much on Andrea Pirlo.
Andrea Pirlo was arguably the most influential player of the 2012 European championship.
His control of Italy’s matches paved the way for Italy to progress deep into the tournament and eliminate heavyweights Germany.
Pirlo’s ability to use time and create space allowed the Italians to threaten opposition defences which led to the Italians finishing the tournament as the country who had the most shots on goal.
But Spain crowded Pirlo.
Spain had three and four defenders pressuring the midfielder to rush decisions and make ineffective passes; turning over possession cheaply.
In order to create space Pirlo had to retreat back to defence to receive the ball from the keeper with little to no contest.
With their playmaker trapped in their red-zone, Italy had to start their attacking raids deep inside their half which robbed them of quality field position to prose any threat in attack.
Italy had to change their game plan as Balotelli and other forwards played much of the game without the ball..
Then, to try and turn any possession into an effective attack in the final third, the Italians had to play long balls to their taller forwards who, once they had possession, had no support and subsequently turned the ball over.
Italy were uncomfortable with this style of play and with such a change in their game plan it made it very difficult to impose their presence on the match-up.
2. The Italians didn’t think Spain would score first.
The defensive lapse in the 14th minute and the player’s faces proved Italy didn’t believe Spain would score first.
Before the final, Italy had scored the first goal in each of their tournament matches.
Throughout the tournament, the Italians relied heavily on their defensive structures to lay the foundations of their game plan.
Although the Italians showed a lot more flair in this campaign, they had only conceded two goals in their preceding five fixtures.
Italy is not good at chasing leads.
With the tournament on the line the Azzuri moved their players forward, leaving Italy vulnerable and exposed to Spanish counter attacks.
The counter attacks were the reason for the last three goals, which made the final score a blowout.
3. Giorgio Chiellini’s Injury
The heart of Italy’s defense looked sluggish from the outset with Chiellini missing the Quarter and semi finals through injury.
Giorgio Chiellini was rushed back from injury to replace Balzaretti who had a solid showing in both qualifying final matches.
With such an important game on the line, was it worth risking Chiellni?
Chiellini’s gamble was a dangerous one, as the 27-year-old was beaten for pace by Fabregas in the box, who brilliantly cut the ball back for David Silva to net a spectacular header.
It was evident from the ensuing play Chiellini was battling a niggling injury and the central defender was substituted mid-way through the first half.
This would prove to be a telling change as their third substitute Thiago Motta succumbed to a hamstring injury.
The injury forced the Italians to play the final 25 minutes with ten men.
Chasing a two-goal deficit against Spain is extremely difficult with eleven men, which makes chasing the lead with ten men nearly impossible.
Chiellini’s injury, Spain’s pressing tactics and Italy’s mentality all played a role in Italy’s defeat but it was Spain’s class which ultimately shone through.
The now back-to back European champions saved their best game until last and with their success etched their names into footballing immortality.
Spain deserved the win but Italy raised a few eyebrows from their success in the campaign.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Azzuri but things are looking up for the Italians.