Quarterfinal 4, Euro 2012: Open Thread

Andrea Pirlo: the key to new (old?) Italy.

Worthy of a semifinal, redux. Two traditional world powers will meet today in Kyiv. Ironically, Roy Hodgson's men may be better at catenaccio than Cesare Prandelli's bunch. Injuries have played a major role for both sides, but that will be no excuse in the anticipated penalty shootout.

England vs. Italy, 2:45 pm ET (ESPN)

How they got here:

England: Group D winner. Drew France (1-1), defeated Sweden (3-2), defeated Ukraine (1-0).

Italy: Group C runner-up. Drew Spain (1-1), drew Croatia (1-1), defeated Ireland (2-0).

Match Preview:

England: An overachieving Three Lions side? Imagine that. Without Frank Lampard (injured) and Wayne Rooney (two-match ban), many observers (but not Allen and Ravi) expected little from England at Euro 2012. But Steven Gerrard has grown in central midfield without as much competition for the ball, and Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have provided key goals. Normal service resumed with Rooney's tap-in against Ukraine, albeit his first as a Manchester United player at a major international tournament. Watch out, Europe.

Italy: A new azzurri? Forget about it, particularly without Giuseppe Rossi. Prandelli restored four in the back against Ireland, but Giorgio Chiellini was injured in the process. Italy has enough holding midfielders and playable strikers, including Serie A leading scorer Antonio di Natale. But creative midfielders have been few and far between, aside from the timeless Andrea Pirlo. Shut him down, and Italy loses.

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