Peerless Pirlo plays down 'that' penalty


WHEN ITALIAN midfield ace Andrea Pirlo met the international media in Krakow yesterday, there was, inevitably, only one question that people wanted to ask him. That penalty, Andrea, how did you do it? Have you been training to hit penalties like that? Was it a moment of madness or a devastating psychological ploy?

Pirlo has always been an understated sort of fellow. So he was yesterday, playing down the impact of what for many was a moment of outrageous inspiration against England, saying: “I decided to hit it that way when I took it. Their goalkeeper seemed very sure of himself and I had to do something. You don’t train to hit a penalty that way, just like you don’t think about missing it.

“You do what you do spontaneously, you see the keeper move and you hit it. I decided to hit it that way when I saw him move before I had kicked it. I dedicate that goal to all Italians. The penalty was not madness rather it was what I felt like doing at that moment.”

Asked how he viewed Italy’s semi-final clash with Germany in Warsaw tomorrow, Pirlo was equally matter of fact and understated: “Obviously, I won’t have all the time and space that I had in the game against England. We don’t expect Germany to play a waiting game like England did.

“Basically, Germany are playing the way they did at the last World Cup, that is, very well. As for myself, I expect that Ozil will be on my case.”

Informed that player colleagues such as Francesco Totti and Xavi Hernandez had paid him handsome compliments not only for his penalty against England but also for his overall performances at these championships, Pirlo remained distinctly underwhelmed. Did he now see himself in the running for the Fifa World Player Of the Year?

“When you have guys like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo around, there’s no chance of finishing in front of them.”

Had he been annoyed that Croatian coach Slaven Bilic had suggested before the Italy v Croatia first round game that Croatia’s Luka Modric was a better player than Pirlo? “No, not at all, it is only right that the Croatia coach speaks well of his own players.”

When one enthusiastic reporter asked him what Italy had to do to beat Germany, Pirlo’s response, said without a smile, was pure Pirlo Speak: “Score a goal”

* Injured Italy players Daniele De Rossi, Ignazio Abate and Giorgio Chiellini are undergoing intensive physiotherapy to try to be fit for tomorrow’s semi-final. Team doctor Enrico Castellacci refused to rule any of the three in or out yesterday, remaining cautious on Chiellini’s chances despite the centre back training normally after a thigh problem.

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