Euro Moments: Pirlo’s Panenka leaves Joe Hart floundering

Italy’s metronome is coolness personified as he sets up Euro 2012 win over England

Euro 2012: England 0 Italy 0 (Italy win 4-2 on penalties)

June 24th 2012

As he approached the twilight of his career in Europe - before he signed for New York City and effectively retired to his mansion in lower Manhattan - Andrea Pirlo became the football hipster's player of choice.

Whether he was orchestrating the Juventus midfield with metronomic ease or being pictured sampling the latest crop from his Lombardy vineyard, Pirlo matured like one of the wines he cherishes into one of the coolest footballers on the planet.

And nothing quite epitomised this cool like his penalty against England at Euro 2012.

The quarter-final between Italy and Roy Hodgson’s side in Kiev, which finished 0-0 after 120 minutes, wasn’t a fixture which will live long in the memory but thanks to Pirlo it still provided a moment of timeless genius.

Hardly renowned for their penalty prowess England had taken a 2-1 lead in the shootout, with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney both on target and Riccardo Montolivo missing.

Could Pirlo, the man who had just made 131 passes in normal time - 87 more than England’s highest passer - keep calm and pull the Azzurri level? You bet.

With Joe Hart flapping and waving around in his goal, Pirlo strolled up to the ball and dinked it nonchalantly down the middle leaving the Manchester City goalkeeper sprawled on his backside and with a face as scarlet as his kit.

And in that moment, Italy had effectively won. Ashley Young and Ashley Cole both missed their spotkicks, Antonio Nocerino and Alessandro Diamante slotted theirs. Italy were into the semis.

Asked about his moment of genius afterwards Pirlo said it was the hyperactive Hart, who had been shouting at Italy’s penalty takers in a bid to put them off, who inspired him to recreate the ‘Panenka’ in Ukraine.

And while Antonin Panenka can lay claim to being the man who did it first, not many have quite made it look as effortlessly cool as Andrea Pirlo.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times