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.  

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@Dennis,I respect your opinion,and I dont think with this will change but take a look,I think 8 is a good rating for a performance at champions league final.
on the 27th June, 2012 at 2:48am
Gerrard and Pirlo are great players,somebody here is saying Pirlo is better based in Italy success in recent years(World cup 2006),but I think Gerrard plays really well for England too,this EURO was a great example,4 games with 3 assists,but sometimes this is not recognize,because England failed in many tournaments,but I dont think the problem is with gerrard,the problem is with all the team,with rooney,young,cole.Gerrard was the best player from England,he is the captain,he is a leader.
on the 27th June, 2012 at 2:40am
Pirlo is a truly world class player, because he could play in any team, in any league, in any era and be a stellar player. Gerrard is a very good player, but he can only play in the Premier League style. This is true of many England players, good players in a league where technical ability plays second fiddle to speed and so called excitement. Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga are all superior to the EPL and that's why their national teams are historically the most successful.
on the 26th June, 2012 at 2:34pm
Pirlo played about 30 mins in SA due to injury while Gerrard played in all England's games and did little. Pirlo was superb in 2006 and okay in 2008. Gerrard did little in midfield against Milan in that game till Dieter Hamann came on and he was shifted to right back. Yes he scored a goal but Milan dominated for 114 minutes with Kaka and Crespo running wild. The English media though will make you believe that Gerrard won it on his own when in truth Milan threw it away
on the 26th June, 2012 at 2:09pm
@Denis,I think you watched another game in 2005,because Gerrard played realy well,BUT I respect your opinion,my point is that gerrard is a top player since the early 2000,and about this EURO,england scored 5 goals with 3 assists from Gerrard.Roy Keake is stupid,because many players have muscular problems in competitions like that,is not easy to play 5 games in two weeks.Pirlo shines every game?So why milan didnt keep him?What happened in south africa 2010?
on the 25th June, 2012 at 3:22pm
@Robert I have no idea how you watch matches but how on earth can you say in the champions league final in 2005 Gerrard was the best player on the pitch when his team was totally dominated by Milan.Roy Keane was spot on when he questioned how a top player can suffer from cramp after 1 hour like he did last night. England played against 2 top teams and Gerrard was not very good in either Italy & France but shone against mediocre opponents like Sweden & Ukraine. Pirlo shines against any team.
on the 25th June, 2012 at 10:18am
England fans, ex players and pundits bang on about their world class players, but the term "world class" is thrown around far too readily. In my opinion Pirlo and Buffon are Italy's only true world class players, whilst England have no world class players. David James' statement that Joe Hart is better than Buffon and Casillas was ridiculous and disrespectful. I look forward to the Semi-Final with Germany. Two of Europe's superpowers, 7 World Cups, 4 Euro's, another classic looms. FORZA ITALIA!!
on the 25th June, 2012 at 3:18am
There is no comparison between PIRLO and any midfielder in the planet and HE needs to do nothing to prove that. Moreover, PIRLO is the best midfielder EVER in football history.
on the 25th June, 2012 at 1:05am
It's sad to know that a lot of english don't know class when they see it. According to them gerrard, modric, hart,cech,wayne rooney, cole and a whole bunch of players in EPL are world class not pirlo, del piero, cassano,ibrahimovic, totti, nesta. But in the euros, pirlo clearly showed how he topped modric and giving spain a scare creating assist and hitting the wonderful freekick, Buffon clearly show he commands the defensive like never before.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:59pm
The english greats....hahahahhahhaha Rooney, Gerrad oooo and the unbelievable £17m young! Hahahahhahahhahahaha
They wanted italy coz it was the 'easier' game!!! What a joke.
Pirlo took the pi*s, hahahahaha o what a night. Atleast we can watch the rest of the games in peace without having to hear the same crap from the england camp!
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:52pm
Wahoooo. See you at Heathrow lads.. Hahahahahha out played out classed and finally the expert panel admitted it! England are crap, never been feared never been anything They place themselves as favourites every single time yet win... Nothing ,but tonight not only were they distroyed but they were brought rite back down to reality! Job done. win or lose against Germany the truth has been told tonight. Have a safe flight home lads. Hahahahha
Forza italia...
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:47pm
Pirlo is in a class of his own , truly a great player,Gerrard also a great player . But tonight the the best team won 64% poss. 651 touches compared to 120 ...Rooney was nowhere .. I feel for Hart had a great tournament ......sorry England
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:39pm
No match in the end. The English were terrible to watch and with a bit of luck Italy would have finished them off long ago.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:17pm
Well chaps who's the better midfielder. pirlo was majestic. Gerrard (a player I really like) was nowhere near as good. The evidence was before your eyes tonight. The better team went through. This might not be the best Italy team ever but the spirit is superb and they can still play better than the English. Gareth Southgate said it folks- maybe the premier league is over rated. The best players are foreigners. And he works for the FA. Can't see Azzurri going much further but proved me wrong.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 11:06pm
Gerrard WHO?

Pirlo master class .

on the 24th June, 2012 at 10:38pm
@Azzuri fan

Please,anybody here is stupid,if you want to express your opinion about the article ok,but if not,just stop telling others what they have to say.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 10:08pm
Steven gerrard is much better than pirlo!!!!Every season he makes magic in the premier league,the most competitive league in the World.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 10:03pm
What is your problem azzuri fan?I think Pirlo is a great player with many titles,last season with Juve he was unbelievable,but Gerrard is a top player since the 2000 EURO,look at the Uefa champions league 2005,against Milan,Gerrard was the best player that night,and many others times he simply decided games by himself.So I think is very naive at least to say that gerrard only had one good season.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 9:56pm
You are so stupid. Telling someone to shut up just shows you're too stubborn to admit he's right but have no argument.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 5:56pm
citing one example then saying "etc" doesn't prove your point at all, in fact it proves your point is incorrect...
on the 24th June, 2012 at 5:49pm
Shut up Milanista.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 5:31pm
Cabaye is from the premiership,he's just doing what they tought him.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 5:13pm
the most boring article ever, yr coterminous adverts r soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo annoying and unreal, never again,
on the 24th June, 2012 at 4:22pm
@Milanista, you couldn't be more wrong mate, Gerrard has been one of the most consistently good performers in the premiership. Henry, Rooney, de Rossi (to mention a few) has all said he's been one the best in world football over the last ten years.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 2:48pm
The difference between England and Italy is that Italy have evolved their playing style yet England still think that breaking legs are the way to go!

If name calling and falling on the floor crying like a big girls blouse and swarming the ref, is evolving then Italy should win everything.

Just about every competition England has there has been broken bones to them not the other way round eg, Rooney etc.

Look at the france game and Cabaye etc.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 2:47pm
Anonymous - great analysis and way to stay on subject. There are at least 4 different things you said in your statement that are not only false, but make absolutely no sense. Must be you watch a lot of football.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 1:55pm
I think England will do a Mourinho with Pirlo and have Parker or someone else smothering him. I don't think the battle will be entirely won in central midfield. I think the wings are very important. If England field Walcott then Italy will suffer.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 1:19pm
The last time Italy won a major trophy was in 2006, the last time England won something major was 1966. The difference between England and Italy is that Italy have evolved their playing style yet England still think that breaking legs are the way to go!

The rule of the game are the same for both sides, it's not our fault you don't know how to play within them ;)
on the 24th June, 2012 at 1:16pm

Whatever, mate...

I suppose 66 was a well-earned, 'clean' victory, was it?
on the 24th June, 2012 at 1:09pm
Milannista typical cockney .........

No one is giving England a chance, that's Ok they will
try their best and they will play football not roll around bitching
and whining and saying derogatory things about family members etc.

Italy have never won fair, it would be nice to see them actually play
football and not play act for the next oscars.
on the 24th June, 2012 at 12:51pm

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