England, Italy battle for last spot in semifinals

Posted by ESPN Stats & Info

By Zack Singer, ESPN Stats & Information

England and Italy meet in Kiev on Sunday in the final quarterfinal match of EURO 2012.

England appears in the knockout stage for the fourth time, having lost in the quarterfinals in their last trip to the European Championships in 2004. Italy, which won EURO in 1968, is making its fourth appearance in the knockout stage in the last five European Championships.

One of the keys to England’s success at EURO 2012 has been its success on crossing passes. England attempted only 53 crosses (8th out of 16 teams), but they averaged a tournament-high 34 yards.

Despite this, three of England’s five goals came off crosses, the most of any team in group play. England’s 15 completed crosses tied for second-most during the group stage. England completed 28 percent of crosses, third-highest during the group stage.

England has frequently been on the back foot at EURO 2012, with 243 touches in their own penalty area. That was the second-most for any team in the group stage, trailing only Denmark, who had 262.

Joe Hart has been a force between the posts for The Three Lions, with more touches than any other keeper in group play (50), and the second-most saves (14).

Wayne Rooney returned from suspension for England in their final group stage match against Ukraine, heading in the game’s only goal. Rooney’s suspension was the consequence of a mental lapse in England’s final EURO 2012 Qualifier.

But his head has always been a big asset at the Euros. Rooney has five headed shots at the European Championships in his career- four have been on-target and he’s scored twice.

While they will never be mistaken for Spain, Italy’s 80 percent passing rate is the highest for any Italian side at the Euros since the tournament installed group play in 1980.

It’s also the third-straight European Championship in which Italy’s passing percentage has increased. Italy‘s midfield passing is paced by Thiago Motta (85 percent) and Daniele de Rossi (83 percent).

Italy relied on strong defensive principles in group play, finishing with the third-most interceptions (60) and 10 offsides drawn (tied for the most).

But Italy may be without the anchor of their defense if Giorgio Chiellini fails to recover from the thigh injury he suffered in their game against Ireland. Chiellini led the Azzurri in tackles, clearances and interceptions during group play.

Neither England nor Italy has any players serving discipline suspensions. The winner faces Germany in the semifinals on June 28th.

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