So England crash out in familiar fashion; once more the agony of a loss on penalties in a quarter-final tie. This time around though, there is less of the hard luck story about the exit. The ‘what ifs?' and ‘if onlys' replaced with a more pragmatic approach as even the most myopic of fans would fail to argue that Italy were the deserved winners.
Aside from the performance during the first twenty minutes or so (when England had two good opportunities opening the scoring) it was a game largely dominated by Italy. This was no surprise given it followed the pattern of the tournament to date. Roy Hodgson, hampered in part by lack of preparation time but also the absence of what you would class to be key players (Wayne Rooney for the first two games, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere etc) set his stall out: happy to concede possession and territory to the opposition and hope to hit on the break.
The problem for England is that whilst at times - or more pertinently in certain areas - they defended well (in and around the eighteen yard line), they both failed to create enough or sustained periods of pressure on the opposition and also stem the conceding of scoring chances.
In my look at the scoring chance totals at the end of the Group D stage, we saw that England had a -8 total in terms of scoring chances created: having 17 themselves but conceding 25. From an attacking perspective they were the worst in the group and defensively only Ukraine conceding more. What carried them through the group stages was an ability to convert at a high percentage rate and in the final game against Ukraine, restrict their scoring chances to a minimum (just six conceded) to put themselves in a position to keep the clean sheet.
Against Italy however, England were out-chanced 14-4 at the end of extra time (11-4 at full time and 4-2 at the half - with the two scoring chances coming in the first 15 minutes). Not only did England fail to pressure Italy but they couldn't stop Italy from creating. Whilst not conceding, this constant pressure meant that England could not impose themselves on the game.
The lack of success England had is backed up in the tournament individual totals (click the image to enlarge):
Perhaps it is unfair to hold Spain up as a direct comparison, but their tournament totals at the quarter final stage are markedly different - both from an attacking and defensive sense - and do provide an indication to the difference between success and failure.
Some final observations:
- The individual totals are very low. Despite only playing two games, Wayne Rooney was second only to Joe Hart with a +6 rating and the numbers show that there was little or no attacking threat from this England side. Consider that Balotelli had a +6 rating from the England game alone or that France had three midfield/attacking players with a rating in excess of +10.
- This is also reflected in the numbers per 90 minutes and per 100 touches with some very low numbers - even Wayne Rooney only had 5.41 contributions per 100 touches. Theo Walcott's numbers are high but his touch numbers are very low (just 31 touches in his 109 minutes on the field) and he did little in his substitute appearances outside of the win over Sweden.
- England did have a number of defensive + marks (although not as many as perhaps thought) but critically for England was the number of defensive mistakes the side made; effectively contributing to their own problems. Not all of course lead to goals, but scoring chances (by our definition) create pressure (see how busy Joe Hart was in comparison to other goalkeepers) therefore restricting a side's ability in an attacking sense - symptomatic of England's ills during the tournament as a whole.