My penalty snuffed out England's hopes: Pirlo
ITALY playmaker Andrea Pirlo believes his cheeky penalty changed the course of Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final with England.
Roy Hodgson's men had established a slender advantage after the first two kicks in the shoot-out when Pirlo strode up in Kiev.
Instead of being a bag of nerves, the 33-year-old beat Joe Hart with an audacious 'Panenka' chip, named after the former Czechoslovakia midfielder Antonin Panenka, who made it famous during the 1976 tournament.
Immediately afterwards, Ashley Young smacked his penalty against the bar to even things up, and once Ashley Cole had missed as well, Italy were on their way to tomorrow's semi-final with Germany.
"It was really relevant to the match and our win," said Pirlo. "This changed the course of the match.
"Hart seemed to be very confident in himself and I needed to do something to beat him. Penalties are a very personal thing and it seemed to be a psychological blow."
Pirlo now has his sights on Germany, a team Italy have never lost to in a knockout game at a major tournament.
Should they succeed, it would put him in the running for the prestigious Ballon D'Or, awarded every season to the world's best player.
But he expects life to be much tougher against the Germans.
"Our approach to the game against Germany will be the same as against England," he said.
"This is the only way we can play. Unlike England, Germany can create many threats to our defence."
Even if he inspires another victory, Pirlo does not expect to be crowned best player in the world.
"It is impossible for me to win the Ballon D'Or because Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo score 70 goals a year," he said.