England have bowed out of the European Championship after a customary penalty shoot out loss, this time at the hands of Italy.
120 minutes of football failed to produce to goal and in the end the Ashley’s of Cole and Young joined a list that includes Stuart Pearce and Gareth Southgate amongst others that have missed crucial kicks at major international tournaments.
England’s loss was their sixth defeat by penalty shoot out and with their last four coming at the quarter final stage of a tournament.
In truth the loss was a fair reflection of the game as Italy dominated and but for better finishing, the combined form of Joe Hart and John Terry and the posts England would have been on the plane long before Gianluigi Buffon dived to his right to save Cole’s poor effort.
In a frantic opening both Danielle De Rossi and Glen Johnson both went close with efforts, De Rossi’s sliced effort from distance that hit the post the most spectacular of the two.
Rooney then went close for England while Terry had to be at his best to block an effort from Balotelli who also had a volley saved by Hart.
Welbeck crashed an effort over after linking up with Rooney while that man Balotelli again wasted an effort, the volatile Man City striker taking his frustrations out on a post.
De Rossi should have opened the scoring in the second half but he mis-hit his volley over when he looked like scoring and Hart had to be his best to keep a shot from the same man minutes later.
Antonio Nocerino almost won near the end but his headed effort was ruled out for offside. Extra time failed to produce any chances of note with the Italian comfortably dominating play with a tired looking England failing to hold onto possession.
That England were happy to accept penalties shows a measure of the confidence that Roy Hodgson has instilled in this team however old habits die hard and when Alessandro Diamanti coolly slotted home the 9th penalty of the shoot out England were out.
Italy will now face Germany in the semi final on Thursday while England will fly home and begin preparations for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014