Italy vs England? It's hardly a level playing field

They're more stylish than us, they have better food and their footballers have nicer hair. Will Dean reckons the Italians' national flair gives them an unfair advantage on and off the pitch

At some point you just have to hold your hands up and say "fine, you win" and scuttle home with your ball. For the English, that point came on Sunday evening when Andrea Pirlo, the metronomic midfield maestro with the look of an adulterous night-school art teacher, looked England's goalkeeper Joe Hart in the eye.

Hart's wild facial gestures were intended to distract the Juventus player, but Pirlo simply strolled forward and chipped into the middle of Hart's goal.

It was the insouciant act of a man out walking his Labrador nudging a stray ball back to a swarm of 11-year-olds playing in the park, not someone with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. It was not, it's fair to say, something you can imagine one of the English players daring to attempt. Let alone scoring. Pirlo's majesty stamped a full-stop on any notion that we can compete with the Italians. Not just on the pitch, but on a complete cultural level

Not that the Tre Leoni have ever really been on a par with the Azurri. Their four World Cups see to that. But England could once take heart in the fact our boys would never resort to dull catenaccio tactics to grind out a one-nil win.

Unfortunately, England's recent penchant for faithful 10- or 11-man impersonations of General Elliot's troops during the siege of Gibraltar put paid to that, too.

It wasn't just the football played on Sunday. The Italians dominated in every possible category. Their manager Cesare Prandelli crouched on the touchline on Sunday, with his hair slicked back, in a (stereotype alert) perfectly tailored suit, looking as cool as liquid nitrogen as his team battered the England goal. Roy Hodgson, bless him, sat hunched on the bench wearing an unfathomably big watch while his hair grappled with the humidity like a dog trying to catch a moth.

Even the sides' respective loose cannons can't compare. Wayne Rooney bellowing "What? Fucking what?!" into a camera, or Mario Balotelli's mercurial "Why always me?" moment? Exactly.

Look away from the pitch, too. We've been veni vidi vici-ed all over again. (Thanks for those roads, though). Britain's high streets are a good example. Fancy a quick shot of espresso? Slice of pizza? Armani suit? And though, England's culinary reputation has improved vastly, the Italians' cuisine has conquered the world with an efficacy that Caesar could only have dreamed of. Until Yorkshire Pudding Hut makes its way to Florence, we may have to concede on that front, too.

London's fashion industry might be a colossus to compare with Milan, but if the fans interviewed in Kiev yesterday are any signifier of national attitudes to style, then you won't need me to tell you the nationality of the handsome chap on Sky News in a perfectly fitted shirt, Ray-Bans and chinos. Then there's the weather, the architecture, the beaches, the skiing, the haircuts, the coffee. All reasons why Brits flock to the damn place every year. Pirlo's impression of Antonin Panenka merely served to draw a handy visual motif for that inferiority. Thanks for that, Andrea.

So, what does that leave us with?

Well, as in 2006, the Italian league is currently plagued by a giant match-fixing scandal, with several players arrested and questioned. Then there are the scary football hooligans, including the Italy fans who racially abused their own Mario Balotelli. Not to mention the continuing scourge of organised crime in the south of the country, an economy so rattled it's led to the appointment of a non-elected Prime Minister; Roman traffic; the media and political career of Silvio Berlusconi and a tower that can't even stand up straight.

You may have won this time, Italy. But give us James Milner, a slightly higher gross domestic product, Test cricket, a cup of tea and a walk in the Peak District any day. And if we could repatriate Andrea Pirlo in time for Brazil 2014, well, that'd be swell, too.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road