By Kelvin YapFollow @@plevyakin
Despite both England and Italy sticking to the same side as they did in their final group game, the different way in which they set up gave us perhaps the most exciting start to a match so far in the tournament.
Italy stuck to their narrow diamond 4-3-1-2 formation, with Andrea Pirlo playing the 'regista' role in front of the defence while Claudio Marchisio, Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi surge forward in attack, where they used Mario Balotelli's presence in the box as a focal point up ahead.
Roy Hodgson appeared to have gone for the same old 4-4-1-1 formation, choosing conservativeness in James Milner down the right wing. The team's shape was largely the same, but they were positioned higher up the pitch at the start of the game, which led to their positive start.
England's bright start
In the opening 15 minutes, England managed to match Italy like for like and were perhaps the better side marginally, creating more dangerous attacks and preventing Italy from breaching into their final third other than De Rossi's early long-range shot.
This was due to Hodgson's instructions for his wingers Ashley Young and Milner to man mark Italy's full backs since they didn't have any opposing wide midfielders to take care of.
This led to a shape which looked something like a 4-2-4, with Young, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Milner pressing up against the Azzurri line of defence.
Knowing that Prandelli prefers to build up play from the back, Hodgson pushed the England forwards high up to pressure the defender on the ball, forcing them to a corner and creating a zone of white shirts to limit their short passing options while having the England defensive line close in on Antonio Cassano, who preferred to drop deep to collect the ball.
Since Italy's three midfielders (who sit right in front of their defence) are not viable passing options, the defender holding onto the ball would have to try to knock it long and find Montolivo or Cassano, but their passing range was limited, leaving Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker to easily cut out the ball.
When they commit men forward, England looked dangerous and were constantly dragging the narrow Italy out of their defensive shape. This was especially true when England enter the final third of the pitch via the flanks, where Italy's main body of players are stranded in the middle.
All of England's decent chances in the match came from Glen Johnson overlapping Milner on the right, creating a two-on-one situation against Federico Balzaretti.
Because of the bright start, England actually completed more passes than Italy in the final third of the pitch 30 minutes into the game.
After soaking much pressure, Cesare Prandelli reacted by pushing Marchisio higher up the pitch to provide an outlet in the ‘dry' zone on the right between the England front line and their defence. This relieved the pressure for Italy and allowed Marchisio to spring a quick cut-back pass to utilise Pirlo's passing range.
Pirlo managed to spring the offside trap twice for Mario Balotelli, but the Manchester City striker took one too many touches on both occasions; the point was made - Hodgson could not risk going behind and the he reverted to his tried-and-trusted deep 4-4-2 defence.
The Pirlo factor
Since England's midfielders dropped off deeper into their own half and had their hands full with Italy's strong midfield, their second striker (aka no. 9) was assigned the task to pressure Pirlo when he came near the ball.
This was used to great effect by Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland in the group stage, where he set Kevin Doyle to track back and deny Pirlo space as much as possible; Pirlo's influence in that game was minimal.
However, things didn't go quite as planned for England due to a change in roles between their front two.
Rooney usually plays as a no. 9 and Welbeck as the main striker at both club and international level, but their roles were inexplicably switched this time round.
However, it didn't quite work out on the attack as Rooney's movement resembled one of a second no. 9 and despite Welbeck picking the ball up from deep, neither of them looked comfortable and were not able to find each other in the box.
Defensively, this was a miscalculation on Hodgson's part as well.
We know that Rooney's blood-and-thunder style means that he will chase every ball back even when it wasn't part of his orders, but he didn't do so this time round - presumably because he was specifically instructed to not do so.
Neither Welbeck nor Andy Carroll, who replaced him later, dropped deep enough to pick up Pirlo when defending, which meant that the Juventus playmaker always had a five-yard radius around him free of any white shirts.
Given that Pirlo needs only two touches of the ball to set up a perfect pass, the veteran playmaker was allowed all the space and time in the world to pull the strings of the entire match, only to have his team mates repelled by the stubborn English defence and the upright (twice).
No matter what, Pirlo's stats at the end of the game was astounding - 30 long balls with 23 being accurate, 6 key-passes, 5 interceptions, 155 touches and 131 pass attempts - he was top in all fields.
After the opening 15 minutes, the game largely fell into the same general pattern with Italy's wave after wave of attacks repelled by England's two walls of defenders.
The first major change came on the hour mark when Carroll was brought on for Welbeck.
This opened up an immediate aerial route for England to relieve the pressure on them since Carroll's role as a no. 9 meant that he could drop deep and win the ball in front of the Italian defenders.
It led to the rather amazing statistic that the Hart-to-Carroll pass was England's most successful pass combination and had a 100% success rate (15 out of 15 attempted) despite the striker coming on as a substitute.
However, it wasn't quite the complete solution up front as Carroll's link-up play was not up to standard.
Knowing they could not match Carroll for height, Prandelli's men were content to let him bring the ball down before applying pressure - the big Liverpool man would try a premature pass, which would then be easily intercepted.
The second major change in the match was when Alessandro Diamanti and Antonio Nocerino came on for Cassano and De Rossi respectively in the 78th minute.
It changed Italy's shape into a 4-3-2-1 (aka the Christmas Tree) formation, which was logical since an extra body in the already-crowded England box would add little benefit.
Being left-legged, Diamanti's presence on the outside-right of the box added another dimension to the Italian attack when he cuts in from the right - his cross to the far post (where Balotelli always lurks at) could easily be disguised as a shot because of its in-swinging nature.
Nocerino's tendency to run in front and between defenders also meant that the lack of a striker was more than made up from due to the AC Milan man's industry.
This almost came to fruit twice in extra time when England's two banks of four retreated too far and Diamanti snapped off a shot which ricocheted off the far post. Minutes later, it was again Diamanti's contribution when he sent in a cross for Nocerino to head into the net - only to be called offside.
Guts or glory?
It was a valiant defensive display from England but they should not be doing that in the first place.
The Three Lions have shown that they have enough quality to bring the game to their opponents on the attack - it was especially apparent when they threw Johnson up front to open up the Italy defence on several occasions - after all, they have players who play for the top clubs in the world in Rooney (Manchester United), Gerrard (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Terry (Chelsea) and Lescott (Manchester City).
England certainly could have grabbed a couple of goals if they dared to commit more men forward, take a risk at the back and trust their defenders to do their job, but alas, Hodgson's conservativeness came to the fore and he chose to ride out his luck in the penalty shootout.
Then again, the famous Latin saying goes: "Fortuna audaces iuvat".
Fortune favours the bold.
For more tactical insights and updates, you can follow Kelvin's Twitter account @plevyakin