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Sunday 17 December 2017

Pirlo spot on to be star man for Italy

ITALY coach Cesare Prandelli labelled Andrea Pirlo "a star" after the Juventus midfielder helped end England’s dreams of European Championship glory.

Pirlo, 33, was named as UEFA’s official man of the match after controlling the tempo of the game during a goalless 120 minutes and then scoring an audacious chipped spot-kick as Italy won 4-2 on penalties.

It was no less than Italy deserved after a superior performance, though they had to come from behind in the shootout after Riccardo Montolivo missed their second penalty.

“Penalties are a lottery but I thought we deserved victory in the end,” said Prandelli.

“When Montolivo missed his penalty I was sad as he was one of the best players tonight. I was watching with my arm around my son and I told him he was lucky he didn’t have to buy a ticket.

“When Andrea Pirlo stepped up I was very calm – he’s a star and knew what he needed to do; and he did it.

“Around 80 per cent of penalty shoot-outs go down to luck. Some players are used to this kind of pressure, some are just calm in these situations – but mainly it’s down to good fortune.

On the game as a whole, he added: “I wasn’t surprised by tonight. I knew we could control the game.

“My worry was that we were allowing England too much space on the break – we could have been a bit cleverer in our build-up play.

“We tried to play football. We tried to draw England out, we tried to hit them quickly. I think if we’d scored in the 90 minutes it would have been an even better game.”

Montolivo, who will depart Fiorentina for AC Milan when his contract expires this summer, was grateful to keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who saved Ashley Cole’s penalty after Ashley Young had hit the crossbar.

The 27-year-old said: “It was a great relief, especially for me.

“I felt terrible after missing my penalty. It was really a tough moment but fortunately it ended well – we are lucky to have a goalkeeper like Buffon.

“However, the victory was fully deserved, we attacked for most of the game and created many chances even if we were not able to convert them. Losing on penalties after this performance would have been cruel. I think we played well in all of our games so far in the tournament.

“Now we will face Germany, probably the best team with Spain, but we will be ready to challenge them. We don’t fear anybody, especially after a performance like tonight’s.”

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