Spain-dodging celebrations feel a tad dangerous for England
Joy at avoiding holders threatens to lead to underestimating Italy
England won’t have to play Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. Pretty handy, sure, but it’s not like they were confronted with a choice between Spain or Republic of Ireland. Instead, they will face a team who have contested two more European Championship finals than them.
Italy haven’t trailed in this tournament – or looked like doing so either – and alongside Roy Hodgson, Cesare Prandelli is the only coach in Polkraine yet to taste a competitive defeat with his nation, and he actually orchestrated their entire qualification campaign too.
Then of course there is the fact that the reward for a supposedly inevitable victory over Italy is a semi-final clash with Germany or Greece.
So their route to the final will require triumphs over two of Italy, Germany and Greece rather than Spain, Portugal and Czech Republic – neither option really feeling particularly tougher or more appealing than the other.
Thankfully, Steven Gerrard was similarly keen to dismiss the perceived advantage and appeared endearingly disappointed by England’s display against the co-hosts despite the three points and yoinking of top spot.
He has flourished far more both on and off the pitch in the role of England captain than at the World Cup, when he gave the press licence to crucify Robert Green after the USA game by implying that his mistake had affected the outfield players’ performances.
His caution is justified too, as England’s showings against Sweden and Ukraine weren’t spectacular even with two wins accumulated, and they are consequently rated 21/20 outsiders on Betfair to progress from Sunday’s showdown with Italy.