A compilation of thoughts/predictions that would otherwise be too short for their own posts.
Italy wins on PKs: Italy got the win on Sunday, a deserved result for a team that outplayed its opponent. The Italian finishing certainly left something to be desired, yet the Azzurri dominated possession and outshot the English by a wide margin. Italy won the possession battle 68%-32%, had eight shots on target (compared to one for England), and got off 36 total shots (compared to nine for England) (stats via WhoScored.com).
Classic Pirlo: In the victory over England, Andrea Pirlo shined the brightest for the Azzurri in regulation and stoppage time. And then he did this in the shootout. I could watch that 1,000 times and it wouldn’t get old. When his illustrious career for club and country is complete, this will join the many lasting images Azzurri fans have of the midfield master. (but note to almost every English announcer ever: It is pronounced PEER-LO, as in “Andrea Pirlo is peerless.” If I hear anyone say “Pearl-LO” again, I’ll have to throw my speakers out the window).
Speaking of Pirlo…: Time to put Pirlo in the Ballon d’Or discussion. By directing the Juventus midfield with class over the course of the past campaign, a serious case could be made for Pirlo to be the world’s player of the year.
Consider the numbers:
- Of Europe’s four major leagues (England, Spain, Italy, and Germany), no player averaged more key passes per game than Pirlo. A key pass is defined by WhoScored.com as “the final pass leading to a shot at goal from a teammate,” and Pirlo averaged three of them per game for Juve. In a way, this can be more useful than the assist statistic, as it is less dependent on the finishing of the player’s teammate.
- On assists, though, only four players in Europe’s four big leagues had more assists than Pirlo, who had 13 (Mesut Özil, Lio Messi, and Angel Di Maria).
- In the four aforementioned leagues, only Messi averaged more accurate through balls per game than Pirlo, and only two players averaged more accurate crosses per game (Cagliari’s Andrea Cossu, and Stoke City’s Jermaine Pennant).
- Pirlo completed an impressive 86.9% of his passes during the past Serie A season.
If you’d like to add club success to the equation, all Juventus did was go undefeated and win Serie A last season.
Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ozil will be among the front runners, but Pirlo certainly belongs in the conversation as well.