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Football
The beauty of Italy's 'work of art'
Italy were superb against Germany but it was a performance to marvel over rather than dissect writes Joanna Tilley.
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2012 12:31
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon shows what the victory means to him [Getty]

Thinking is a footballers worst enemy.

You can talk tactics all you want, you can talk team selection, managers, substitutions if it makes you feel clever. But against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 2012, what the Italians showed was a lack of thought.

Although the superb Mario Balotelli scored two classy early goals, this was a team display based on passion not a tactician's masterplan.

Italy bewitched and entranced, playing at a level of international football I can't remember last seeing.

When players aren't thinking too hard on the pitch, it shows. For the viewer, it suddenly becomes a lot more enjoyable as there is a natural rhythm and flow to the game. There was something poetic about how the Italians broke through the Germans and caressed the ball effortlessly around the pitch.

But please don’t take my girlyish superlatives for granted. Even the ageing but extremely gifted Andrea Pirlo - who has been the player of the tournament for many - described the performance 'a piece of art.'

That is exactly what is was. And like art is shouldn’t be too readily dissected.

Sometimes it is not what you see on the pitch that's important but how it makes you feel.

It was actually a match that made me glad to be female in a man's world, as few male sports journalists are comfortable writing these corny prose. But this was a match that warrants them.

Italy had the X-Factor, and it wasn't just because Balotelli finally delivered on the big stage. As a band, Simon Cowell would have put them through to the next round.

On this occasion they didn’t need him.

On the same beat 

The usually silky smooth Germans looked clumsy and clunky compared to their European rivals.

Italy's victory was also belissima because it wasn't expected.

On Thursay, there was an understanding between a group of players that no number of drills can instill or stats can explain.

It was not just their movement during the match that showed Italy have something special in their camp. For me it came after the final whistle when a large group of players gathered together arm-in-arm. They formed an easy relaxed huddle, jumped to the same rhythm and even stopped on the same nanosecond.

"The Italians were in sync and were not playing like a team with any expectations or pressure on them. They were dancing. Salsa-ing on."

Whether Spain have this telepathic understanding will become clearer on Sunday. And what a prospect the final is! 

Unlike other nations at the Euros, Italy crucially lacked self-awareness.

Their relaxed playing style was too much for the Germans, who might have thought before kick-off that through hard work and organisation they could graft away a victory. They were wrong.

They forgot football at its best comes when you forget how to play. That strategy and organisation is not why it is called the beautiful game.

Italy are in the final because the players forgot the world was watching.

A number of times Italy made Germany look clinical and stale. There were some mesmeric passes that dreamily drifted through the air and even more magically reached players able to collect. The defenders were in the right place at the right time but it was more like a dance, a combined shuffle taking them to the places they needed to be.

The Italians were in sync and were not playing like a team with any expectations or pressure on them. They were dancing. Salsa-ing on.

The Dutch, English and Germans have shown in the past that forcing matters on the pitch rarely works. Grinding out a result doesn’t pay in the long term because it takes away the joy of playing - that's why Chelsea's Champions League victory last season is unlikely to be remembered (except among Chelsea fans).

International winners like Brazil and Spain are nations driven by passion, flair and rhythm. They play on the beach not just to keep warm. They don't think about the result until their last twirl on the dance floor is over.

When it comes to a game like last night - analysing can only get you so far. Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and Balotelli are only half the story.

The other part is harder to understand.

But my advice to those teams who did not make the final is to drown your woes on the dancefloor. Loosen those hips and dance like nobody is watching.

Joanna Tilley is a freelance journalist working with Al Jazeera on the Sport website. She has worked at Sky News, Sky Sports News and LBC Radio.

Follow her on Twitter (@joannatilley) or her website, http://mythoughtonsport.blogspot.com/

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.


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