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Pirlo’s poise exposes ordinary England

England were eliminated from Euro 2012 by Italy on Sunday night, with the Azzurri rightful winners. Despite a one-sided game it took penalties kicks to confirm Italian progression, with Ashley Young and Ashley Cole off-target.

One player stood out above the rest in the form of Andrea Pirlo. The veteran is certainly one of the best deep-lying playmakers in world football, and his ability on the ball, range of passing and ability to keep his side in possession shone through.

Pirlo’s poise on the ball was in contrast to the dogged but wasteful Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, and shows the technical gulf between English football and some of their European rivals. The Three Lions simply did not have a midfield general to run the show this summer, which is unlike all other nations – Schweinsteiger, Xavi, Moutinho etc have shown the importance of this at Euro 2012.

And then, there was this…..

Masterful Andrea Pirlo, take a bow

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Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: The young and the new of German football meet

With three points separating the top two teams in the Bundesliga, leaders and champions Borussia Dortmund host perennial powerhouses Bayern Munich in a massive game at Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday. A win for the hosts will all but seal back-to-back titles, whilst an away victory will give the biggest club in German football the impetus to go on to win their title back.

Jurgen Klopp has transformed an underperforming and mediocre Dortmund setup into a well-tuned and talented squad of promising stars since taking over at the club in 2008. The team’s Bundesliga crown last season was the first since 2002, and the 44-year-old trainer has continued where he left off last term in 2011/12. Many feared for Die Borussen after the forced sale of key midfielder Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid and a slow start to the season, whilst Champions League elimination in the group stages proved that the young pretenders have a way to go yet to replicate the historic achievements of the European champions team of 1997.

Despite this, a run of ten wins from 13 league games propelled the holders back to the top of the standings, and the crown is now Dortmund’s to lose. With home advantage and their opponents still with European distractions, Klopp’s young superstars will look to strike a decisive blow on Wednesday. The likes of Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze (although he will not play through injury) and Robert Lewandowski have shone over a fantastic 24-month period for the club.

Off the pitch, Dortmund recently claimed another victory over their traditionally superior rivals. The signing of Borussia Monchengladbach and Germany attacking midfielder Marco Reus, wanted by the Bavarians also, shows that Klopp’s men are serious in their rejuvenation and could be ready for a period of dominance in the country.

Bayern, by their own admittance, were poor last season but a summer of rebuilding, the arrival of Jupp Heynckes and a better start to the campaign has saw Die Roten back to their ominous best at times this campaign. Despite spending spells on top of the pile and thrashing sides on occasion, inconsistency has crept in at times domestically, which Dortmund have taken advantage of.

With Real Madrid lying in wait in what should be a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final, the Allianz Arena outfit have a potentially memorable end of season ahead of them. However, both Los Blancos and Dortmund will put Bayern under pressure, with the side’s defence still to really prove that it has what takes to challenge for honours. The attacking abilities of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez are not in question, however it is whether Bayern can shut out an attacking-minded Dortmund side that will be the difference in the game.

Dortmund won the reverse fixture 1-0 at the Allianz Arena through a solitary Gotze strike, and despite Bayern’s history, players and prestige will go into this game as favourites. The home side could well be on the verge of a new era of success, with 90 minutes for the young Borussen stars to prove their worth and retain their title.

Seven stars on the verge of missing out on Euro 2012

With only a couple of months before Euro 2012, and the teams and groups decided, the last thing to be confirmed are each nation’s squads. With the tournament only being played once every four years, it may be some players’ last chance to feature, with all the major superstars keen to playin Ukraine and Poland. However, some more than others are in danger of missing out through injury, poor form or selection issues at club level; here are the top seven sitting on the fence.

Fernando Torres

The World Cup winning striker has lost his way since the last major international tournament, and is no longer guaranteed a place in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad. With a barren spell at Chelsea blighting El Nino’s career, the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente could get the nod ahead of Torres.

Jermain Defoe

One of the most clinical strikers in the Premier League when given an opportunity, Defoe has had a frustrating season in and out of the Tottenham side. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart ahead of the Englishman in Harry Redknapp’s preferences, Defoe may well miss out on the competition due to lack of playing time.

Mario Balotelli

During the qualifiers Cesare Prandelli used the Manchester City forward on a regular basis, and Balotelli started to lead the line towards the end of that campaign. However, the national selector recently left Super Mario out of his squad for a friendly against the United States, claiming Balotelli’s immaturity and indiscipline as the reason.

David Villa

Spain and Barcelona star Villa would have been a certainty had he been fit, but a broken leg in the Club World Cup in December has the Camp Nou man cutting it fine. Villa should make it back to club action before the end of the season, but with the number of Spanish attackers available, is not guaranteed participation.

Giuseppe Rossi

Another star to pick up a serious injury, Rossi ruptured knee ligaments in October, and has been through a strenuous rehabilitation process since. The Villarreal forward was in Prandelli’s preferences before the setback, and has targeted April for a possible return to action.

Raul Albiol

With Jose Mourinho using Sergio Ramos in the centre of his Real Madrid defence alongside either Pepe or Ricardo Carvalho, Albiol is a serious doubt for Euro 2012. The ex-Valencia man has only made five appearances in the Primera Division this term, and with versatile Javi Martinez and Sergio Busquets also being able to play at the back, Albiol needs a miracle to be included.

Jack Wilshere

The Arsenal playmaker has not played a minute of football this season due to a knee injury in pre-season, although Arsene Wenger has promised that his star will be available before the end of the Premier League campaign. However with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Tom Cleverley, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and maybe even Paul Scholes in contention for a place in the centre of the park, Wilshere needs to hurry up.

Published – footylatest

A Competitive Serie A Stands Italy in Good Stead for Euro 2012

Despite the importance of club football, Euro 2012 dominates the majority of the continent’s players’ thoughts going into the second half of the season. Italian football has had it’s share of ups and downs over the last decade, with the elation of winning the World Cup in 2006 counteracted by scandal in the domestic game; Italy need a strong performance in the tournament.

Cesare Prandelli has a wealth of talent at his disposal, and with Serie A more competitive than ever,Italy stand a real chance of success in Ukraine and Poland. Despite the Azzurri’s qualities, a tough Group C awaits, with Croatia, Republic of Ireland and current world champions Spain standing between them and the knockout stages. Vicente del Bosque’s men will provide the toughest test, and it is important that Prandelli gets team selection correct; but who will be in the squad for the competition?

Goalkeepers

Although Prandelli has some tough choices to make throughout his squad, the decision of which goalkeeper to play is an easy one. Gianluigi Buffon is still one of the best keepers in European football, and his form for Juventus this season has been a key reason for the Turin club’s unbeaten start to the campaign. Morgan de Sanctis, Salvatore Sirigu and new Palermo signing Emiliano Viviano will battle it out for the backup position.

Defence

Italian football is famed for its dependable and disciplined rearguard, and former greats such as Nesta, Cannavaro and Baresi have typified the type of solid players that have been nurtured in the country. Giorgio Chiellini has matured as a player over the last number of years and will be one of the first names on the Italian teamsheet if fit. Mattia Cassani, Andrea Barzagli and Andrea Ranocchia will be in contention to partner Chiellini; don’t write off Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro to make the grade if his current form continues either.

At left back Federico Balzaretti will be in direct competition with Domenico Criscito, with the Palermo man likely to get the nod. On the other flank AC Milan youngster Ignazio Abate has forced his way into the national set-up, but Prandelli also has the option of playing Christian Maggio at the back.

Midfield

Italy have a blend of young, promising talents and experienced stalwarts to choose from in the centre of the park. Old heads Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Pirlo will be key figures in the national set up, with Simone Pepe and Antonio Nocerino also in the international mix. Claudio Marchisio is in great form and has turned into an important player for Juventus and Italy, whilst Alberto Aquilani will go if fit.

Ricardo Montolivo has lost some of the form that made him a target for AC Milan and now is at risk of missing out, whilst Sebastian Giovinco is on the borderline of inclusion or expulsion.

Attack

Italy have a multitude of attacking players that could make the difference in a close game, but inevitably a number of players will miss out. Manchester City’s temperamental forward Mario Balotelli has emerged as first choice striker, and could either be the saviour or villain of the piece. Alessandro Matri has shown excellent form for Juventus over the last 12 months, but competition for places in Turin could threaten his starting place.

Giampaolo Pazzini is starting to step up to he plate at Inter, and with Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi both likely to miss the tournament through health concerns and injury, should make the squad. Marco Borriello, Alberto Gilardino and Pablo Osvaldo are also in the mix, but at least one or two of these will miss out. An outside choice is veteran Antonio di Natale, who continues to hit the net for Udinese.

Likely line-up: Buffon, Balzeretti, Chiellini, Barzagli, Abate, Pirlo, De Rossi, Aquilani, Marchisio, Balotelli, Matri
Subs: De Sanctis, Maggio, Ranocchia, Pepe, Montolivo, Nocerino, Pazzini

Italy stand a real chance of making the latter stages of the European Championships, but Prandelli must get the mix of his side right amid a plethora of top drawer players. Spain will provide tough opposition in the pool stage, but with an exciting squad at his disposal Prandelli may follow in the footsteps of Marcello Lippi, and lead the nation to international glory.

PublishedSerie A Talk

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