In the aftermath of the Italy v England UEFA Euro 2012 Quarter-Final, focus inevitably fell at the grateful twinkle toes of Azzurri Regista, Andrea Pirlo.
The Juventus maestro delivered a stellar performance in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, statistically out-passing the entire England midfield quartet of Gerrard Parker, Milner and Young. Pirlo’s 118 passes to the quartet’s 88 was roundly lauded by the English press.
Myself, I wasn’t exactly ‘knocked for six’ by this. For me, this had always been why Pirlo was so special and I was more surprised it had taken till Euro 2012 for the world to wake up and realise what a fantastic talent he indeed is. This was a man who featured in two Champions League Finals and a World Cup Final over a span of three years (05-07).
More surprising for me was the involvement of Bologna’s fantasista, Alessandro Diamanti. Replacing Antonio Cassano 12 minutes before Extra-Time, Diamanti was making his second appearance at Euro 2012 and he did not disappoint.
Thrust into the Nazionale pressure cooker, Diamanti was both dynamic and reliable across the Kiev turf. Nicknamed ‘The Wildman’ by his growing band of tifosi, Diamanti delivered a forty-some minute performance worthy of cementing his name in Prandelli’s next starting eleven.
With Montolivo yet to realise his full potential in the Azzurri blue, I wouldn’t write off Diamanti strong-arming his way into the side against Germany. His cameo appearances have provided Italy with some much needed gusto when they have looked out of ideas and whilst Diamanti may not have unlocked the fort door which England had barricaded shut, he certainly provided both fantastic delivery and a positive attitude toward goal as an alternative to the somewhat wasteful Balotelli.
In the penalty shootout, for sure Pirlo swung the balance back in Italy’s favour with his audacious panenka, but Diamanti’s winning penalty was every bit as enjoyable. ‘The Wildman’ has surely let Prandelli know that he is every bit as important to the cause.