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Article:Euro 2008 Spain 0 - 0 Italy (Spain win 4-2 on penalties)

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Italy were really responsible for this being 0-0 - with Pirlo (who is basically 100% of their creativity normally) out, they didn't replace him wih Camoranesi, or anybody else creative, but instead chose 4 basically defensive centre-midfielders and stuck them all in one ugly, negative line. And then when they did win the ball they'd aim long for Toni, with Cassano buzzing around him to no great effect. Aragones isn't completely exempt from criticism for how this went, though, because he isn't maximising the talent he's got. What I don't understand is that for the last 3 or so tournaments Spain have quality everywhere but no width (not since Joaquin sparkled in 2002), and here again it was the same narrow setup. Senna anchored the midfield beautifully, Xavi played next to him, Silva was on the left and Iniesta on the right (mostly, there was some licence). So...Xavi is being chosen ahead of Fabregas, which I don't like, but can understand on the grounds of experience, but what is it people like about Iniesta? He's just a tidyish centre-midfielder who will find the odd decent pass, but the idea he can play on the right is weird - he doesn't beat people, he's not explosive, he hasn't got tricks and he's not Pires-clever. And tonight he gave the ball away a lot. Fabregas would do that role much better, and a proper winger like Joaquin (in 2002 form, I'm not sure how he's going now) would be a much better selection. Aragones is definitely leaning towards Spanish-based players in his decisions, I think to the detriment of the team. Certainly when Fabregas and Santi Cazorla came on for Xavi and Iniesta at about the hour Spain were sharper and more dangerous. Torres was taken off for Guiza, who looks alright but wasteful, but David Villa stayed on and demonstrated again why I'm not sure he's the superstar people think he is (he too often fails to get shots off in one-on-ones and he makes bad decisions). David Silva is tidy and useful, a bit like a left-footed Joe Cole, but he ought to have hit the target with his four or so shots that just whistled wide.

For Italy, Panucci did a fine job at centre-back, Di Natale did okay when he came on up front, Toni is still basically an 80s English First Division target man/donkey (seriously, Crouch is a much better player), Ambrosini is less good than David Batty was (who, if he were foreign and playing nowadays, would be regularly hailed by pundits as terrific) and I wish they'd let De Rossi off the leash a bit. Grosso and Zambrotta are both useful, and needed to be because they were all the width there was. Camoranesi is mad a box of frogs but livened them right up when he came on.

Neither side really pushed the tempo up at any point, possibly because it was hot, but Spain were the better side and I'm glad they won it. It was nice that Fabregas got the winning penalty, too, because there's nothing negative in his game at all and he seems very level-headed and likeable altogether (despite being a superstar, he's been doing his A Levels!).

In the semis I don't think there's a lot to choose between them and the Russians, and I will fancy either of those teams against the Germans in the final, set-pieces excepted.

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