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Ollie Holt on… Pirlo’s falling leaf, Chelsea’s threat to United and his Golden Boot bet

Another international tournament passes us by and we’re met with another failure from England to even reach the semis. However, unlike previous years, expectations were at an all time low so the players have returned without getting much stick. England reached the quarter-finals, standard, and Roy Hodgson managed to get them playing like a team.

Ollie Holt, Chief Sportswriter at The Mirror, has shared his thoughts on England’s campaign, Euro 2012’s best players and where the title will be this time next year.


“I think Roy Hodgson did a decent job with England in the summer,” he said. “I mean what did we expect, Total Football? As Scott Parker said during the tournament, ‘we are what we are’. And what we are is a limited team who can’t keep the ball and traditionally loses to the first decent team we come up against. In that context, Hodgson did fine. He had limited time to prepare and so it was obvious he was going to stick with the system he has always trusted. England looked limited and conservative, particularly in the second half against Italy, but then when have we really looked anything else at a tournament recently, apart from perhaps under Venables at Euro 96. We finished top of the group under Hodgson, at least. I thought it was a reasonable start.”

The only England player to be included in the official Team of the Tournament was Steven Gerrard, which is a judgement Holt agrees with.

“Steven Gerrard was England’s best player,” he continued. “I thought it was probably his best tournament for England. A lot was asked of him and Scott Parker in the centre of the pitch and Gerrard certainly delivered. He worked incredibly hard, showed more discipline than ever before and provided three great crosses that led to goals. I was also impressed with his leadership off the pitch. I think he responded to the fact Hodgson gave him more responsibility.”

England were knocked out by eventual finalists, Italy, who made England look good by beating the Germans 2-1 after failing to score against England over two hours.

“Spain were brilliant in the final but I enjoyed watching Italy the most,” Holt said. “Maybe I was influenced a bit by the fact that they were also based in Krakow, where most of the English journalists were based and so we got to see them at close quarters. Players like De Rossi, Buffon and Pirlo are impressive individuals in press conferences let alone on the pitch. I loved watching Pirlo in particular. Sadly, he was at his majestic best against England. And his ‘falling leaf’ penalty was a thing of beauty.”

Andrés Iniesta was named the player of the tournament but Holt thinks a a few others deserve a mention.

“My favourite players in the tournament were Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Pirlo, Marco Reus and Ronaldo. I also enjoyed the goals of Mario Gomez but that was probably mainly because I had a bet on him for the Golden Boot.”

With the Euros over and the opening game fixtures confirmed, thoughts can now turn to the Premier League. Growing up in Alderley Edge, Holt spent his weekends going to watch Manchester United, Manchester City and Stockport County play. After seeing United dominate English football for the past couple of decades, the bragging rights are with City at the moment, and Holt doesn’t think that will change any time soon.

“Premier League title next season? Now that they’ve got over the psychological hurdle of winning it, it’s difficult to look beyond Manchester City,” he said. “If Balotelli grows up and reproduces some of the form he showed at the Euros, he could be a more powerful weapon next season and they are bound to strengthen even further over the summer. I’m not sure that United will fashion a decent challenge. They need considerable investment to do that and it remains to be seen whether that will be forthcoming. Chelsea may be a serious threat to them for second place.”

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