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Sunday June 24 2012
All about Pirlo-Gerrard

Tonight two of the world’s best midfielders in Andrea Pirlo and Steven Gerrard will be on opposite sides. Dave Taylor feels whoever wins this key confrontation wins the game.

When the former Inter and England midfield ace, Paul Ince inanely uttered “Andrea Pirlo is good for his age,” it came as a quite a surprise. It was a bit like finding your favourite pureed tomatoes stamped ‘Made in Italy’ actually come from China. I had always felt that Incey was unique amongst Englishmen with a respectful insight when talking about Italian football. Yet sadly today it seems he has lost it and in doing so underestimated one of the world’s true greats.

In the build up to big games like tonight’s Italy-England clash, at least in England, there is always crazy talk and tonight someone else will also try to look insightful by trotting out the old phrase “the battle will be won or lost in midfield.” Yet for once they will be right as two of the best midfielders on the planet face each other, the Azzurri’s Pirlo and England and Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard, both world class and both the inspirational players of their respective sides.

Pirlo is not nicknamed the Metronome for nothing and after coming off an unbeaten season with champions Juve, has all the ability in the world to take charge and dictate the rhythm of the game from the crux of the midfield. And although some say the Azzurri are too dependent on the 33-year-old and need a plan B, if Plan A is working why change it? Okay he looked a tad tired against Ireland, but most every team looked weary in the third set of games and he still set up the opener.

You only have to recall his precision passes, like the incisive cuts of a brain surgeon’s knife that can split open defences at will, to see that he is much too valuable to substitute. Could anyone on the bench open up World Cup holders Spain like he did? Is there anyone that could make the inch-perfect pass that led to Antonio Di Natale’s goal? It was a living footballing jewel that is perhaps only rivalled by his breathtaking goal against Croatia. Let’s not forget his countless dangerous set pieces, free-kicks and corners, especially the near-post delivery from one in particular that left Antonio Cassano with the simple task of directing the ball into the net against Ireland.

Yet perhaps there is one who could possibly take his place, but unfortunately for those who underestimate Coach Cesare Prandelli, Italy’s plan B dreamers, he plays for England. In his own English way the inimitable 32-year-old Gerrard has been equally as breathtaking as Andrea and as we have seen, his three assists have come from Pirlo-like precision passing. His cross field balls, corner taking and capacity to ping perfect passes to Ashley Young, especially in the win over Ukraine, have been sublime. Factor in his dynamic cross that led to Wayne Rooney’s goal, which let’s face it, thanks to Gerrard’s accuracy even Stephen Hawking could have put away in a power surge.

Yet all this talk about Gerrard and Pirlo fails to take into account the others in their respective midfields. In Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio and Thiago Motta, Italy have one of the most talented midfields at Euro 2012. On the other side Gerrard has the pragmatic Scott Parker and the pair fit together like a pair of Gucci gloves. Yet notwithstanding their discipline, England could find themselves outnumbered and it’s possible Roy Hodgson will ask Rooney to drop back in front of the “Metronome” to help out. A lot will depend on these individual battles in the centre of the pitch, but it still all comes down Pirlo and Gerrard as the main providers for goals and inspiration - and it will be the winner of their duel that will dictate the result of the game.

Both players represent the archetypal ideal of their footballing nations’ style and one or the other will win out. Will it be the tactical awareness and technical subtleties of one of Italy’s best ever playmakers, whose intelligence and silky football represents the Azzurri at their historically finest? Or will it be the dynamic never-say-die attitude and tireless running of Gerrard, which symbolises the best of the English style? Who knows? All I know, along with my colleague Susy Campanale, is that 33 is not old and Ince needs to get back on the ball and stop being ridiculous.  

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Have your say...
My fear is physicality and pace. Italy have also tired after 60 mins ,especially Pirlo. Chiellini will be missed and I fear if Montolivo starts. Keeping everything crossed.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 1:43pm
33 is not old. Cannavaro aged 33 was the best player in the world. Pirlo is no different. As good as Xavi and Iniesta are, they do not even come close in comparison to Pirlo.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 1:01pm
I agree about what you say regarding Italy's midfield. After Spain, Germany and France, Italy have the best set of players in that area. The problem remains getting the best out of these players in a system that can bring out that potential. Maybe we can try a new system after the Euro's like 3-4-3?
on the 24th June, 2012 at 12:37pm
Well written, almost as precise as Pirlo's passing!!
The Azzurri have to stay focused and work more on their target practise as well as defending from set plays, without CHIELLINI, THEIR MAY BE LESS WRESTLING, YET I FEAR THERE MAY A TENDENCY TO HAVE A LAPSE IN CONSENTRATION. Because that's all it takes and at this level you may not get a second chance.
I have faith in Prandelli, FORZA AZZURRI!!
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:41am
Big Pirlo fan here, but if I'm honest I've never seen anything special about Gerrard - I'm more a Lampard fan.

For me, the Englishman had one stand out season, playing his best football alongside Torres in 07-08.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:05am

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