Giants take two-game World Series lead

The San Francisco Giants find themselves in a position that they have not held thus far in the playoffs: they are holding a two-game lead. After coming back from 2-0 deficit against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS and and a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants are up 2-0 on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Manager Bruce Bochy gave Barry Zito the Game 1 start after his dominant showing in Game 5 of the NLCS. As Joe Buck commented on during the game, Zito was never mind-blowing, but he was extremely effective. Despite being pulled in the fifth inning with two men on, two out and the ALCS MVP, Delmon Young, at the plate, Zito continued to pitch at the top of his game. His fastball only reached the mid-80s, but the east to west movement made it hard to hit. He also had a wicked 12 to six curveball that befuddled the Detroit batters. He left the game after allowing six hits and one run. Lincecum continued to perform better in relief, pitching two shutout innings and striking out five batters.

The real story from Game 1 was the Giants offense. Pablo Sandoval went 4-for-4 and joined the ranks of the Albert Pujols, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth, as one of the only players to hit three home runs in a single World Series game. Two of his home runs were off of All-star and former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Marco Scutaro extended his playoff hit streak to 11 games as he went 2-for-4. Zito also contributed to the offensive end, adding an RBI single and extending the streak of Giants pitchers driving in runs to four games. Giants won 8-3.

Game 2 was much more of a pitchers duel than Game 1. Madison Bumgarner was given the start in Game 2 against the impressive Doug Fister, and he pitched more like the Bumgarner from the 2010 World Series than of the Bumgarner from the 2012 NLDS and NLCS. His control was on and he was hitting his spots a lot better than in his previous outings. He pitched seven innings and had eight strike outs. The Giants defense, which has been outstanding in the playoffs, provided the most important play of the game. In the top of the second, Prince Fielder, who was on first after being hit by a pitch, was sent home on a double to the left field corner. Gregor Blanco missed the cutoff man, but Scutaro, who was positioned right behind the cutoff, caught the ball and fired home to Posey, who tagged Fielder right before he tagged the plate.

Fister pitched five innings and was pulled after allowing a lead off single in the bottom of the seventh. Drew Smyly relieved Fister and walked the first batter he faced, Brandon Belt. Gregor Blanco reached first and advanced the runners after he lay down a bunt that the Tigers infield waited to roll foul, but stayed fair. Brandon Crawford hit into a double play, but Pence scored the Giants first run. In the bottom of the eighth, the Giants scored an insurance run off a sacrifice fly by Hunter Pence. Scutaro went 0-for-4 and snapped his 11-game hit streak. The Giants won 2-0.

Ryan Vogelsong will face off against Anibal Sanchez in Game 3 is Saturday, Oct. 27 in Detroit.

Bay Area baseball teams force Game 5

The San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics came back from a 2-0 deficit to force a Game 5 in each team’s respective Division Series.

The Giants normally dominant pitching has been sub-par against the red-hot Cincinnati Reds. Pitchers Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito never made it past five innings. Cain, the Giants’ new ace, allowed five hits—including two homeruns—and two earned runs in just five innings in Game 1. In Game 2, Bumgarner allowed seven hits and four earned runs in just over four innings. Vogelsong had the Giants best outing in Game 3, allowing just three hits and one earned run in five innings. Zito had the team’s worst outing in Game 4 allowing four hits, two earned runs and four walks—including one walk that forced a run home—in just over two innings.

Despite the Giants’ poor pitching, the team was able to scrape by on an error to win Game 3 and extend their season one more game. Joaquin With two men on base, Arias pitch hit in the top of the 10th inning and hit an infield grounder to third baseman Scott Rolen, who bobbled the ball. Arias beat out the throw to first and Buster Posey scored, giving the Giants a 2-1 victory.

The Giants offense finally picked up in Game 4. After scoring only four runs on 12 hits in the first three games, the Giants scored eight runs on 11 hits. The Giants had the least number of home runs of any team in the league this season, but put up home runs by Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval. Tim Lincecum gave the Giants its best showing by a pitcher thus far in the series pitching four and one-thirds inning relief, allowing two hits, one run and striking out six. Lincecum, who will not be given any starts in this series, has pitched more innings than any other Giants pitcher thus far. He also made an appearance in Game 2, where he pitched two shutout innings.

The Oakland A’s won Game 4 and forced a Game 5 in dramatic fashion. The game came down to the A’s final at bats. The Detroit Tigers headed into the top of the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead. After the Tigers pitching staff had kept the A’s relatively quiet, Tigers closer, Jose Valverde, one of the leagues’ best closers, came in to end the game and the A’s hopes. With no outs, right fielder Josh Reddick started the rally by singling to right field. Third basemen Josh Donaldson doubled to deep left center, while Reddick moved to third base. Designated hitter Seth Smith, who had struck out twice, doubled to deep right center scoring Reddick and Donaldson and tying the game 3-3. The A’s next two batters fouled out and struck out. Center fielder Coco Crisp stepped to the plate, with the memory of a dropped pop fly that scored two runs in Game 2 on his mind. Crisp drove a single to right field scoring Smith and wiping his error in Game 2 from the minds of A’s fans everywhere. The A’s beat the Tigers 4-3 in the top of the ninth to force a Game 5.

The Giants and A’s will continue to fight for a spot in the NLCS and ALCS, respectively.

Melky Cabrera’s National League MVP hopes dashed by positive PED test

This post is a bit late, but I’ve been in Singapore and Bangkok, thus causing me to fall behind in the recent news.

It’s a disappointing time to be a Giants fan.

Last week news broke that Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera used performance enhancing drugs and will be suspended 50 games. The first-year Giant was having the best offensive season of his career. He was batting .346, with slugging percentage of .516 and an on-base percentage of .390. He had 11 home runs, 60 RBIs, 84 runs, 13 stolen bases and a 4.5 WAR. Cabrera was leading all of baseball with 157 hits, including 10 triples. A team known for its incredible pitching staff over the past few years, Cabrera had provided the Giants with the offensive lift it so desperately needed. The Giants were battling with the Dodgers for first place and were in serious contention for the Wild Card Race.

But now the Giants are in trouble. Not only are we losing the center of our offense, the overall Giants success is in question. How much of Cabrera’s (and the Giants) success was due to the PEDs? How will losing Cabrera affect the rest of the Giants’ season? 

Sure the Giants added Hunter Pence to the line-up before the trade deadline. Sure Buster Posey is back from his injury and picking up right where he left off from last season. Sure Pablo Sandoval has continued to play at a consistent level despite being placed on the disabled list twice this season. Sure the Giants’ pitching has continued to be dominant. But can the Giants do it without the offense Cabrera was producing? My thought is no.

It’s disappointing to see the Giants play quality all-around baseball for the first time in years, only to have the chair pulled out from under us like some joke. What Cabrera did was not only morally wrong and unfair, it was selfish. And with all the measures put in place to prevent doping and all the measures put in place to catch offenders, how could he think he would not get caught? 

Here’s what my dad had to say in an email he sent me:

I understand how discouraging this can seem — and I don’t underestimate his contribution to the team and its offense — but the rest of the team could well step up.  Hunter Pence seems to finally be hitting his stride; Buster is ho;, Belt is starting to find his swing (I think it’s Belt, but I could be thinking about Crawford); and Pablo is back.  What’s too bad is that the Dodgers just loaded up with more big bats, so we certainly don’t match up with them on paper without Melky.  The good news is that the game isn’t played on paper, so, who knows?  That’s baseball.

 As for Melky himself, how disappointing and selfish for him to have taken a banned substance knowing how much attention has been paid to this topic in recent years, knowing how much scrutiny there is and how likely he was to be tested, and knowing how discovery and the ensuing, certain suspension would hurt his team and its chances for the playoffs.  I would shun him, not because he chose to take a banned substance, but because he did so knowing that his teammates would suffer the consequences.  What a self-centered, selfish attitude to have and how dismissive of his team, his teammates, his and the team’s fans, and the game itself!

My dad is right: it’s time for the rest of the team to step up offensively. We can’t let the weight of our whole team rest on one, two, three or even four players. There must be contribution from everyone. So hopefully the Giants don’t let this suspension affect the team. Hopefully it lights a fire under their asses, as we head into the final stretch of the season and fight for that No. 1 spot in the West and playoff berth. 

Guest post: Matt Cain deserves MLB All-Star starting pitching job

Last week my brother and I were discussing whether San Francisco Giant pitcher Matt Cain deserved the starting pitching job for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game. Cain was in the discussion along with New York Met pitcher R.A. Dickey. Today, Tony LaRussa announced that he planned on starting Cain.

Before the announcement was named, my brother sent me an email with his argument as to why Cain deserved the start. Here’s what he had to say (I added facts in brackets [ ] for clarification):

The stat bug has bit him again this year. He pitched nine scoreless innings against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, where he didn’t pick up a win and was not given a complete game [the game went into extra innings]. Put that together with the blown save against the [Oakland] A’s the other day, and he would be one win behind Dickey [Cain has 9, Dickey has 12], be tied with Dickey for complete games [Cain has 2, Dickey has 3], and pass Dickey in shutouts as the league’s sole leader [both players have two shutouts].  The rest of his stats speak for themselves: second in the NL in WHIP (0.96), second in the NL in innings pitched, fourth in the NL in strikeouts (118). Cain has an outstanding ERA of 2.62, which is good enough for sixth in the NL and better than Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Dickey, and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, the other strikeout leaders.  I believe the stats point to Cain, Strasburg and Dickey as leading candidates for the starting job with Hamels, Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto and others on the outside looking in. Looking at just the stats, I have to believe that Cain should be the starting pitcher.  Looking beyond the stats (which I firmly believe is more important), I think Dickey and Strasburg are just phenom stories and not as worthy of the start as the two time All-Star and World Series Champion, Matt Cain.  Dickey is a knuckle baller no one has figured out, and Strasburg, who has nasty stuff, is pretty new to the league so he hasn’t been seen much.  Matt Cain has been doing this for years and he has the ring because of it.  You watch the second half of the season, and Cain will sustain his pitching while the others will see some decline.  And on the mound, he has a better head on his shoulders than the rest of the league as well.  Plus Matt Cain may have done
something pretty special back on June 13 [a perfect game for those of you who didn’t see SportsCenter].

Matt Cain!!  My pick as the starting pitcher for the National League,
at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

So congrats, bro! Matt Cain, your pick for the NL starting pitcher, will be starting the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

Euro Cup 2012: Spain makes history

On Sunday afternoon, the Spanish national team broke records and cemented itself in history when it beat Italy 4-0 in the 2012 Euro Cup final in Kiev, Ukraine. Spain became the first team to ever win back-to-back-to-back major tournament titles, and the first team to win back-to-back European Championships.

David Silva scored the game winning goal off a cross from Cesc Fábregas in the 14th minute. Andrés Iniesta sent a through ball to Fabregas, who earned the start after being left out of the lineup for the semifinal. Fabregas dribbled toward the touch line and crossed the ball to Silva, one of the smallest men on the field, who headed the ball into the back of the net. The Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon committed to a near post shot, and when Fabregas crossed the ball instead of taking the shot, it left an empty net for Silva.

Spain’s next goal came in the 41st minute when Xavi sent another beautiful through ball to the left back Jordi Alba who slipped the ball past Buffon. This was Jordi Alba’s first goal for Spain, and it happened on one of the biggest soccer stages. Spain went into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

In the second half, Italy’s luck turned from bad to worse. In the 57th minute Italy made its third and final substitute, Thiago Motta for Riccardo Montolivo. But less than 10 minutes later Thiago Motta hurt his hamstring, and Italy was forced to play nearly 30 minutes with 10 men. The comeback, which was already going to be difficult, turned nearly impossible.

In the 84th minute Fernando Torres, who came on in place of Fabregas, received another splendid through ball from the assist man Xavi and scored. This marked Torres third goal of the tournament. Moments later, Juan Mata, who was seeing his first minutes in the tournament, scored off an assist from Torres. Torres’ assist tied him with German Mario Gomez for the Golden Boot, but because Torres played fewer minutes during the tournament (a tiebreaker), he won the Golden Boot.

Italy held Spain to its lowest time of possession in the entire tournament: 52 percent–a surprising number considering Italy’s bad luck in the second half. When Italy went down to 10 men, it was almost too painful to watch. Spain passed the ball around the tired Italian side that barely held possession of the ball and, when it did get possession, almost immediately gave it away. Italy did have a couple chances to score, but Iker Casillas continued to perform at a high level in goal. Spain went 512 minutes without conceding a goal, the longest streak in Euro Cup history. Spain also only conceded one goal in the entire tournament, the fewest allowed since the Euro Cup adopted the group stage in 1980. The 4-0 victory is the largest margin of victory in a Euro Cup final, although its hard to say if Spain would have won by four goals if Italy had stayed healthy for the entire game.

The back-to-back-to-back major championship titles (2008 Euros, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euros) and back-to-back Euro Championships makes Spain arguably one of the greatest teams in soccer history. And with Spain’s core starters only being in their late 20s and early 30s, its more than likely that we’ll see this same squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Only this team will be slightly stronger with the return of injured David Villa, and I’d hate to see what kind of damage that team can do.

Euro Cup 2012: semifinals

Spain vs. Portugal

Portugal was seeking its first Euro Cup title; Spain was seeking its third major championship in a row. Both teams had played splendid soccer, but both teams needed to prove something more to themselves. Christiano Ronaldo hit his stride in the previous two games, scoring three goals in two matches. Spain has continued to thrive on its one-touch passing, quick movements around the box and its ability to get everyone involved. During the 90 minutes of play, neither team played at the level they were known for playing at. Spain had 57 percent of possession–its second lowest time of possession in the tournament. Spain’s passing was slopping, and it often gave the ball away in the last third of the field. Jordi Alba had another stellar game, making runs up the left side and crossing the ball into the box. However, Spain couldn’t capitalize and its last ball was lacking.

Spain opted to play a 4-5-1, but started Alvaro Negredo in place of Fernando Torres. Negredo, who only played a minute in the tournament prior to this start, did not provide a spark to the Spanish offense and remained static at the top of the pitch. In the 55th minute, Vicente del Bosque replaced Negredo with Cesc Fabregas, who provided Spain with the quick angled runs the team lacked in the first half. Portugal held its own during the game, taking 10 shots (2 on target) and holding 43 percent of possession. Spain was unable to break Portugal’s back line of Pepe and Bruno Alves, who had height and strength over the Spanish front line.

After 90 minutes of play, the match ended 0-0 and was headed for 30 minutes of extra time–the second game of the tournament to go into extra time. In extra time, Spain began to play with an urgency we haven’t seen it play with thus far in the tournament. Spain worked the Portuguese defense, and had some great opportunities to score, including a shot by Andres Iniesta off a run and cross by Jordi Alba. But Rui Patricio made a beautiful stretching save to keep the score tied at 0-0.

Extra time ended and the game went into penalty kicks. Xabi Alonso went first for Spain. Alonso, who made a penalty kick in the game against France, went right instead of left and was stopped by Rui Patricio. João Moutinho had his PK blocked by Iker Casillas. Iniesta and Pepe both put their PK’s into the back of the net, keeping the PK score tied 1-1.  Gerard Piqué converted his PK to give Spain a 2-1 advantage. Central defensive player Alves was all set to take Portugal’s third PK, but was called back in place of Nani. Nani scored tying the PK’s at two apiece. Sergio Ramos, who ripped a PK 10 meters over the crossbar in the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich, stepped up to take Spain’s fourth PK. Ramos chipped the ball over a diving Rui Patricio–a PK that eerily resembled Andrea Pirlo’s PK in the quarterfinals against England.

In perhaps its most shocking move of the tournament, Portugal sent Alves up to take a must-make PK. The pressure was on the Portuguese central back, a player known more for his physical play than his goal scoring abilities. Alves hit the ball into the crossbar giving Spain a 3-2 advantage with Fabregas up next for Spain. Fabregas shot a low, driving ball to the right as Rui Patricio guessed left. Spain won 4-2. Ronaldo, who was set to take Portugal’s fifth penalty shot never got the chance. It’s still unknown whether it was Paulo Bento’s decision or Ronaldo’s decision for him to shoot last. Either way, Portugal will be hearing about this poor decision making for the next few months. And Ronaldo, who had begun to show the prowess he showed for Real Madrid, and finally began to show critics that this year could be his year for a major championship, has taken leaps backwards with this mistake.

Italy vs. Germany

Super Mario strikes again. Mario Balotelli scored two goals in the first half of the game and upset Euro Cup favorites, Germany, despite Germany holding 54 percent of the possession. In the 20th minute, Antonio Cassano sent a perfect floating cross into the box and Balotelli leaped in front of Holger Badstuber to head the ball past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. In the 36th minute, Riccardo Montolivo sent a ball over the top of the defense to Balotelli who was making a run behind the defense. Balotelli fired a dipping shot from the edge of the box past Neuer to give Italy a 2-0 lead. Balotelli’s goals came after the striker received criticism for missed opportunities earlier in the tournament.

In the first 15 minutes Germany had plenty of opportunities. Gianluigi Buffon bobbled two easy saves, one which almost resulted in an own goal. Buffon initially looked nervous, as if this was his first Euro Cup game ever, but he looked like his usual self in the second half.

In the second half, Germany substituted in Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus to provide a more offensive lineup. Reus almost had an immediate impact when he took a free kick from a dangerous position right outside the box. The free kick went over the wall and dipped towards the goal. Buffon redeemed himself from his earlier mistakes and, in full stretch, blocked the free kick. Eventually, Germany placed three in the back, but could still not convert on opportunities.

In the 91st minute, Germany was awarded a penalty kick for a handball in Italy’s box. Mesut Özil converted the PK with three minutes left in stoppage time, but Italy held the Germans off, beating them 2-1.

Spain will play Italy in the Euro Cup Final, a rematch of the first game from Group C.

Euro Cup 2012: Quarterfinals

I always look forward to the quarterfinals because this is where we start to see who the real contenders for the title are. I also always love the prospect extra time and penalty kicks should the game come to that.

Czech Republic vs. Portugal

Let’s be honest. Portugal was lucky to make it out of the Group of Death. Not that they weren’t playing well, but because any of those four great teams could have been knocked out during the group stages. Portuguese superstar, Christiano Ronaldo didn’t show up until the last game against the Netherlands, where he hit his stride and scored two beautiful goals to kill the Netherlands dreams of making it to the quarterfinals. Portugal, the No. 2 seed from Group B, was clearly the better side against the Czech Republic, the No. 1 seed from Group A. The Portuguese held 56 percent of the possession and took 20 shots on goal (five on target) to the Czech’s two shots on goal (0 on target). Ronaldo had some great opportunities to score, including a low driving shot off the side post in the 46th minute and a free kick that hit the post in the 49th minute. Finally, in the 79th minute, Joao Moutihno made a run to the corner, pushed the ball past the opposing Czech defender and sent a perfect cross into the box. Ronaldo glanced a diving header into the ground, which bounced into the goal. This goal marks Ronaldo’s third goal of the tournament and makes him a contender for the Euro Cup Golden Boot despite his slow start. Portugal moves on to the semifinals.

Germany vs. Greece

Germany’s starting lineup made it clear: the Germans did not think Greece was a threat. Germany rested playmakers Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski, and the team’s leading goal scorer Mario Gomez. The only reason Germany would rest its starters is if it believed it would make it to the next round. But as Greece has proved time and time again in this tournament, don’t count them out. Michail Sifakis took over in goal for the injured Kostas Chalkias. Germany kept the ball on Greece’s end for almost the entire first half and had entirely too many second chance opportunities because Sifakis could not cleanly catch the ball. In the 39th minute, German defensive back and captain, Philipp Lahm fired a shot from 20 yards out past Sifakis to give Germany a 1-0 lead. The lead should have been much larger, but Germany was having trouble putting away opportunities, so Greece was able to capitalize on a counterattack in the 55th minute. Germany had a three on two advantage, but Dimitris Salpingidis, who had showed heroics in Greece’s earlier games and earned himself a spot in the starting lineup, took the ball down the sideline and sent a low driving cross into the path of Georgios Samaras. Greece tied the game 1-1. In the 60th minute, Sami Khedira sent a superb volley into the goal over the head of Sifakis to give the Germans a 2-1 lead. And that’s where Germany ran away with this game.  In the 67th minute, forward Miroslav Klose, who got the start in place of Gomez, scored a header goal off a free kick from the corner. In the 73rd minute, not to be outdone by Khedira’s beautiful volley, Marco Reus, in his first start at the Euros, fired a volley into the upper corner off a rebound to give the Germans a 4-1 lead. In the 88th minute, Jerome Boateng, whose defensive unawareness allowed Greece’s first goal, committed a handball inside his own box to give Greece a penalty kick. In the 89th minute, Salpingidis pushed the PK past Manuel Neuer. Despite it’s 4-2 win, Germany did not play with the finesse it has shown in the previous three games. Bastian Schweinsteiger gave away too many passes to Greece and there has been speculation that he has been playing through an injury. The German’s need him healthy for semifinals.

Spain vs. France

France made it out of the group stages, but it still had a lot to prove to the other teams and the media. Spain continued to play with the finesse and style that it has displayed since the last Euro Cup. But France disrupted Spain’s style like no team had thus far in the tournament. To start the game, Spain’s passing wasn’t as crisp. Spain held 55 percent of the possession, the lowest amount of possession it’s held all tournament. Despite its disrupted play, Spain broke through early in the game. In the 19th minute, Jordi Alba used his speed to make a run up the left side of the field, past the outstretched France defenders. Xabi Alonso, seeing Jordi Alba’s run, made his own run. Florent Malouda, the closest player to Alonso, did not pick him up. Jordi Alba floated in a cross and Alonso had a wide open header that he put into the ground back across the goal and in. The score remained 1-0 until the 90th minute when Anthony Reveillere ran into Pedro Rodriguez in France’s box. Cool, calm and collected, Alonso put the penalty kick into the back of the net. Alonso scored two goals in his 100th appearance for Spain, and Spain won 2-0. France only took four shots in the game (one on target). The one goal on target came off Yohan Cabaye’s free kick, which goalkeeper Iker Casillas tipped over the top bar. Casillas has hardly been tested during the Euros, but he has come up with the one or two big saves each game that his country needed. In the semifinals, we can bet that Casillas will tested more than he has in the first four games combined.

This win marked Spain’s first win against France in seven competitive games. Although France took another early exit from a major tournament, it started to redeem itself from its first round exit in the World Cup. In the next few tournaments, France will re-emerge as a soccer power.

England vs. Italy

This was the most exciting and most frustrating game of the quarterfinals. Italy should have won in normal time, and it should have won by a few goals. Italy pounded England’s defense, keeping the ball in England’s third for almost the entire game. Italy held 64 percent of the possession (although it really seemed like 90 percent). Italy took an astounding 35 shots (20 on target)! However, Italy was unable to score. It had numerous opportunities right in front of goal but were unable to finish the job. England’s defense seemed desperate as players threw themselves in front of shots, sacrificing every part of their body to prevent a goal from going in. England had a solid 10 minutes of play where it looked dangerous. Glen Johnson couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and chipped the ball right into Gianluigi Buffon’s hands. Shortly after, Wayne Rooney headed the ball over the bar. After these 10 minutes of danger, England fell back into a defensive stance.

After 90 minutes (and a lot of hair pulling by myself), the game ended 0-0. I’m not complaining too much because I love the thought of an extra half hour of soccer being played, but it was extremely frustrating to watch Italy do everything right except score a goal. The 30 minutes of extra time played out the same way that normal time did: Italy continued to push the ball and strike shots from all distances and angles, testing goalkeeper Joe Hart, but still England wouldn’t break. Extra time ended and the game was headed for penalty kicks.

I love and hate penalty kicks at the same time. On the one hand, I feel it’s unfair to leave the fate of a team to penalty kicks. Italy should have won the game, but now it was at risk of losing the game because of PK’s. On the other hand, PK’s really show you who the clutch players are, and what players can stay mentally strong. Playing soccer for 12 years, I learned the PK’s are not all about power, it’s all about placement. But PK’s are easy to over think, and while I watch so many professionals take PK’s and think to myself, “How can you miss that?!” I completely understand how it feels.

Mario Balotelli made Italy’s first PK, and Steven Gerrard equalized. Riccardo Montolivo put his PK well wide of the goal.  Rooney put his PK in and gave England a 2-1 advantage. Andrea Pirlo chipped in a shot over a diving Hart; a shot which Ian Darke and Bob Ley called “cheeky.” Ashley Young tried to go for power and his PK hit the crossbar evening the score at two apiece. Antonio Nocerino put his PK in leaving it up to Ashley Cole to tie the game. Cole, who converted his PK in the Champions League final, sent a low driving ball right into the arms of a diving Buffon. Alessandro Diamanti put the game away with his PK giving Italy a 4-2 victory in PK’s; a well-deserved win for the way it played.

I have one gripe with how UEFA scheduled this tournament. Germany will play Italy, who will have two days less rest after playing 120 minutes of soccer. UEFA should have scheduled the games on the same day or one day apart, rather than giving Portugal and Germany two days extra rest each. Fatigue will definitely play a part in the semifinals.

SEMIFINAL GAMES

Portugal vs. Spain

Germany vs. Italy

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