By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
The gloomy predictions suggested Roy Hodgson’s England would be lucky not to be laughed out of the competition with their hopeless ineptitude. Well, already Hodgson has been able to give the critics one in the eye with his team’s disciplined and surprisingly industrious performances. Tonight, they stand on the verge of a semi-final appearance and in their way is the tough, but beatable challenge of Italy who themselves have surpassed some gloomy predictions by not being on the beaches of Sicily already.
With two even-matched teams, it promises to be a thrilling game. And even if it isn’t I’ll make it up and throw some offensive comments around. I’ll bring you all the latest updates, cynical comments and random crap that no-one else would bother thinking about for the duration of the evening. If you want to give me a ‘holler’, you’re probably a bit gangsta for my tastes, but you can certainly leave you comment in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you think you can express your views in less than 140 characters, you can use the @PaddyPowerBlog.
FULL TIME: England 0 – 0 Italy – Kiev (Italy win 4-2 on penalties)
10.25pm: IT’S IN! ITALY WIN It’s that familiar feeling for England as their spot-kicks let them down. There won’t be much of a sense of injustice however. They were second best throughout the game and Italy move on to a semi-final with Germany next Thursday.
It’s going to mean a whopper Money-Back Special for us as we were offering refunds if the game went to penalties.
10.24pm: Cole, never looked confident and rolls it to Buffon. Decent save. Diamanti steps up to win it for Italy.
10.23pm: He scores. Ashley Cole steps up.
10.22pm: MISS! Nocerino now.
10.22pm: The cheeky bastard! Pirlo with the Panenka chipped right down the middle! Balls of steel. Ashley Young now.
10.21pm: Nice from Rooney. The first convincing penalty of the lot. Pirlo next up for Italy.
10.20pm: WIDE! Poor penalty. Rooney steps up.
10.20pm: Another close call, but it sneaks in. Montolivo next.
10.19pm: Just about is the answer. Steven Gerrard up now.
10.18pm Balotelli up first. Is this a good idea?
10.15pm: It’s been a long night, but fair play to Eamonn Dunphy, he’s talking shit right to the death. This time vaguely claiming Rooney doesn’t turn up for England at tournaments.
10.13pm: FULL TIME! PROPERLY THIS TIME Italy can’t get the breakthrough they probably deserved and it’s time for the lottery of penalty kicks.
10.12pm: Another crap long range effort from Italy. Barring a sudden burst of strangely accurate shooting, we’re heading for penalties.
10.07pm: NO GOAL! Nocerino heads into the English net, but it’s a great decision from the artist formerly known as the linesman. He strayed marginally offside and England are still in it.
10.06pm: Diamanti has a shot that goes wide. England are hanging on like glamour models around Premier League footballers.
10.04pm: Balotelli does his reputation for blowing hot and cold no harm by thumping a free kick high into the stands behind Joe Hart’s goal.
10.03pm: There’s some frantic defending from England as Italy press forward. Andy Carroll throws his ponytail in the way of a couple of them and they survive. For the moment. Ten minutes to go in extra time.
10pm: Diamanti goes down injured. Italy put the ball out of play. Ashley Young boots it all the way down to Gigi Buffon, in the process getting one of England’s few efforts on target tonight.
9.58pm: After a quick turn-around, Italy start the second half of extra time.
9.56pm: HALF TIME PART 2 Before the whistle goes, Glen Johnson finds Andy Carroll’s forehead with a cross. The fact Carroll is a yard out of play at the time kind of takes the good out of it.
9.55pm: One minute of added time in the first half of injury time.
9.51pm: POST! Or less ambiguously, WOODWORK! It’s the same post De Rossi hit early on. This time Diamanti puts in a cross that no-one gets near and it goes on to clip the outside of Hart’s right hand post.
9.49pm: In fairness, Balotelli is still looking lively. He takes his tally of ‘particularly threatening shots’ to close to the 50 mark with a shot that Hart gathers with his eyes closed. (His eyes may not actually have been closed)
9.48pm: There’s some nice flashes from both teams, but it generally all goes tits up in the penalty area. I wouldn’t say they’ve both settled for penalties, but they seem to agree that anything else is going to involve too much running.
9.43pm: YELLOW CARD AND SUB! That’s two different incidents. Maggio gets booked for going through Ashley Young and for some reason, Roy Hodgson sends on Jordan Henderson in place of Scott Parker.
9.42pm: The Olympic Stadium in Kiev is strangely subdued. It’s quieter than Roy Keane’s phone ringing with job offers.
9.40pm: England start the 1st half of extra time.
9.38pm: I’m not looking forward to extra time. Another half an hour of off-key humming of ‘Seven Nation Army’.
9.36pm: The RTE panel summarise the game. I’ll spare you the details, but England are the worst team in the history of football ever, apparently.
9.34pm: FULL TIME! There’s no breakthrough and we’re heading for 30 minutes of extra time. It’s going to be really tense and nerve-racking. For me at least, mainly because I don’t know if I’m getting overtime. It’s the first scoreless draw of the tournament.
9.32pm: It’s time for Wayne Rooney’s ill-advised overhead kick. His attempt is no more successful than Mario’s and it goes sailing over the crossbar.
9.31pm: SUB! Derek Branning puts on his final sub. Maggio comes on form Abate.
9.30pm: Three minutes of added time for England to jam this.
9.29pm: Great defending from Glen Johnson who tracks the run of Nocerino and gets a block in. Pirlo hits another one of his trademark dreadful corners.
9.25pm: Five minutes to go and England don’t deserve to win, which – if their other games are anything to go on – probably means they will win. They’re 6/1 to snatch it in normal time.
9.22pm: YELLOW CARD! Barzagli picks up a booking for a tackle on Young. “You can’t tackle any more these days,” moan Houghton. Well, not into someone’s shin at least, Ray.
9.21pm: Diamanti almost makes an instant impact, but his tidy turn and shot is gathered easily enough by Hart.
9.20pm: ANOTHER SUB Derek Branning makes his second change of the game. Danielle De Rossi gets taken off and Nocerino comes on to replace him.
9.17pm: SUB Italy make their first change. Cassano comes off and Diamanti replaces him.
It was a lively, but ineffective performance from Cassano. Someone seems to have told him that he’s deadly from long range. He’s not. In fact, I haven’t seen that many ill-advised shots since the sixth form at my all boys school got vaccinated against cervical cancer.
9.16pm: A good chance for England goes to waste. Wayne Rooney and his quiff can’t get on the England of an excellent delivery from a Stevie G free-kick.
9.15pm: More brave stuff from John Terry. He risks ‘castration by football’ by blocking a shot from Marchiso that was really travelling.
9.12pm: The strain of carrying England is starting to show on Steven Gerrard. He goes down with what looks like cramp, but after a quick trip to the sideline, he returns to action.
9.10pm: 20 minutes to go and we’ve reached squeaky bum time in this match. And not – as I once said – ‘itchy bum time’. That one slip of the tongue cost me an embarrassing trip to the vet.
9.07pm: RTE commentator, Ray Houghton declares “there’s only one team that’s going to win it and that’s Italy.” May I be the first to congratulate England on their place in the semi-final.
9.04pm: Great chance for England as Walcott crosses for Carroll. He doesn’t make contact, but his wild flailing legs are enough to put off the defence. The breaking ball falls to Ashley Young, but his shot is blocked by Andy Carroll. So obviously it’s a corner.
9.01pm: SUBS! It’s a double substitution for England as Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott are relieved of bench-warming duties. Milner and Welbeck come off. Immediately England start hoofing the ball towards Carroll’s ponytail.
9pm: Balotelli does well to ignore his better placed team-mates and tries an overhead kick. It’s not a bad effort, but it clears Joe Hart’s crossbar.
8.57pm: Abate and Ashley Young have a bad clash of heads. I’ll be very disappointed if there isn’t a Paul Ince style ‘bloodied head bandage’ by the end of this match.
8.56pm: Quality haircut and defending from Ashley Cole as he cuts out a threatening through ball aimed for Abate.
8.52pm: It’s panic-stations for England. No, John Terry hasn’t got the phone numbers of all the other WAGS. Joe Hart makes a good double save and that’s followed by a single miss. De Rossi and Balotelli have their shots saved and Montolivo is guilty of missing the gilt-edged follow-up.
8.50pm: It’s a cliche, but with all the counter-attacking this is really shaping up like a classic heavyweight title fight. Right down to the Italians paying the referee. Of course that’s not true. I think.
8.49pm: England come back, earning a corner. Gerrard takes, but Italy clear it easily.
8.47pm: Daniel De Rossi has a good chance six yards out, but his less difficult attempt at doing a ‘van Basten’ goes badly wrong.
8.45pm: England get the ball rolling for the second half. No substitutions for either team.
8.38pm: RTE are showing footage of Cassano having a go at Balotelli going into tunnel at half-time. Anywhere else it would be called a mini-civil war, in Italy it counts as a little more than a quizzical look.
8.30pm: HALF TIME It’s scoreless, but not courtesy of the snoozefest many were predicting. Italy had the better of it, but England have had their moments. The odds – as I’m contractually obliged to talk about occasionally – are 9/4 England, 13/10 the draw, 21/10 Italy.
8.25pm: Great chance for Balotelli, but the English cavalry arrive just in time to cut out Cassano’s knock-down. Italy get a corner which turns out to be as useful as a chocolate teapot.
8.21pm: Cassano clearly fancies his chances against the Johnson/Terry combo. From the left hand side of the penalty area he hits a decent shot at Joe Hart. Hart saves it easily, but in comparison to his earlier crappy efforts, it’s an exocet.
8.20pm: It has slowed down to a walking pace as Italy bide their time. That will suit John Terry whose full blown sprint should be enough for him to keep up with play.
8.17pm: Rooney and Welbeck combine well to create a chance, but Welbeck finishes less well to put it wide from about 17 yards out.
8.16pm: Another chance for Balotelli, but it’s harder than giving a decent fireworks display in your toilet. He can’t get much power on his half-volley and Joe Hart snaffles it.
8.13pm: The replays show that maybe I was being a bit harsh on young Mario. It really was a great effort from John Terry to get around and block the shot. He really doesn’t give up, that boy. As Wayne Bridge knows all too well.
8.09pm: Great chance for Mario Balotelli. Pirlo picks him out with a cracking pass and the Manchester City striker dillys and dallys until John Terry gets around to block his shot. Crap stuff from Balotelli, but it does mean we’ve moved one step closer to his next moment of genius.
8.06pm: Now it’s Italy’s turn to threaten without actually creating many clear cut chances. Cassano has a woeful shot which is as wide of the mark as his views on homosexual players.
7.57pm: I haven’t seen anyone get his much success in wide areas since George Clooney turned up at my ‘Single And Horny Weightwatchers’ class. The dastardly silver fox. England are giving the Italian full backs a horrid time and Gigi Buffon’s crappy punching of the ensuing crosses isn’t helping settle the nerves. Good stuff from England.
7.55pm: England are getting into the swing of things. Even Scott Parker tries a little trick. They win the game’s first corner, but it comes to nothing other than some very faint penalty appeals.
7.49pm: BRILLIANT SAVE! England come roaring back with some nice football and carve out a decent chance. For some reason Glen Johnson is hanging around the Italian six yard box and his shot is stopped by the lightning reflexes of Buffon.
7.47pm: POST! Yeah, just as Dunphy predicated, it’s cagey stuff from Italy. They run rings around England for a couple of minutes before Daniel De Rossi strikes a beautiful shot from about 30 yards out. It moves in the air, beats Joe Hart, but cracks into the post. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but it would have been one of the best goals in the history of the European Championships. Ever.
7.45pm: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 – If you got the feeling jump up to the ceiling 5ive will make you feel alright. And with that obscure reference, Italy kick off as we start down the long road to penalties.
It takes all of 40 seconds for Mario Balotelli to do something weird, this time trying trying a ridiculous volley from about 40 yards out.
7.41pm: John Terry belting out ‘God Save The Queen.’ It couldn’t be more English if he was drenched in baked bean and weak, lukewarm beer.
7.39pm: It’s mumbling through the national anthems time. First up Italy and it soon becomes clear that although he has lovely hair, Gigi Buffon doesn’t have a note in his head.
7.37pm: Eammon Dunphy – after spending the guts of half an hour saying neither team can defend very well – predicts a 0-0 draw. Go figure.
7.33pm: Italy are defensive and mentally suspect like all th0se Mediterranean types. England are brave and dogged. It’s great of RTE to show re-runs of this ‘ye olde time punditry’ as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.
What do ya mean it’s live?
7.25pm: It’s a big game, but the Italian strike partnership of Balotelli and Cassano look in relaxed form just before kick-off.
Ironically, of all the Italian players to blithely characterise as a fairy, Antonio Cassano would like it least.
7.18pm: As it’s a quarter-final and it involves England, there’s been a lot of chat about the likelihood of the game being decided by some badly taken penalties. In a break with tradition, Roy Hodgson has chosen to prepare his players for that eventuality. The England penalty-takers are supposedly Gerrard, Cole, Rooney, Young and Johnson – that inspires as much confidence as banking with NatWest.
7.12pm: We asked Robbie Fowler for his opinion on how tonight’s game would go. He told us England would go through. And kept a straight face and everything! At 10/11 for England to go through, it’s pretty much a toss of coin, but strangely UEFA have opted to play the match rather than trying to flog TV rights for coin-tossing.
7.02pm: TEAM NEWS TELEGRAM
The team have been announced and for England, it’s about as surprising as seeing Pete Doherty injecting heroin into his eyeballs. The Rooney/Welbeck combination gets the nod and that means Andy Carroll will be watching on from
his caravan the sideline.
Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young, Rooney, Welbeck
Italy have made some changes, some enforced and some more optional. Balotelli starts in place of Antonio Di Natale, increasing our chances of something a bit mental happening. Leonardo Bonucci and Riccardo Montolivo come in for Giorgio Chiellini and Thiago Motta respectively.
Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Marchisio, De Rossi, Montolivo, Balotelli, Cassano
6.55pm: Good evening one and all. Welcome to tonight’s live blog. I’m not as immediate as actually watching the game and I’ll probably make more typoos than the guy on the BBC Live Blog, but I am giving you a NO CHICKEN PUNS GUARANTEE and you won’t get many of them for tonight’s game in Kiev. God it makes me want to punch Mark Lawrenson in the face already.