There is a great story that the Italian press tell about Andrea Pirlo's grandfather, from Sinti – a Romani population – moving to the country for the first time from eastern Europe and presenting himself at the local town hall to register as a citizen.
In an act of mockery, and because grandfather Pirlo could not speak Italian well, a local official told him that his name would be "Pirlo" because the word is close to "pirla", roughly equivalent to "d***head" in modern Italian. It was a cruel trick but the name, which is unusual to Italian ears, remained. Two generations on, however, the joke is not on the Pirlos any more. The joke yesterday at Italy's Casa Azzurri HQ here in Krakow was on the English.
The Italians have moved on from their victory on penalties against England on Sunday towards tomorrow's semi-final against Germany in Warsaw. Yesterday, however, Pirlo was unsparing when it came to England's performance. He thought that Roy Hodgson's team played without imagination or ambition.
"England played in a very conservative and careful way," Pirlo said. "They were sitting back for all the match like Chelsea did in the Champions League final. As far as they were concerned, getting as far as the penalty shoot-out was already a good result for them."
Pirlo did not try to dismiss the significance of the cheeky penalty that he chipped past Joe Hart with his team trailing in the shoot-out. "It was really relevant to the match and our win. This changed the course of the game. In my opinion, Hart seemed to be very confident in himself and, scoring against him this way, it did seem to be a psychological blow."
It is true that the space that England gave Pirlo on Sunday contributed to the strength of his performance. Germany will not be so generous tomorrow. "We have watched all the Germany games," he said yesterday. "They are a great team. But we started training today and we know how to beat them. We know they are difficult team to beat. But we know we can do it."Reuse content