There were few voices in the media lamenting Italy's departure from the European Championships after its quarterfinal exit to Spain on penalties Sunday. The blame for its defeat was placed not just on the team's dour, defensive tactics, but the failure of striker Luca Toni to score in any of Italy's four games.
Defender Christian Panucci, defensive midfielder Daniele Di Rossi and playmaker Andrea Pirlo (from a penalty) had scored Italy's three goals going into the quarterfinal, Richard Williams points out. It was time for Toni to step up, but he's just the latest in a long line of Italian strikers to disappoint at major tournaments. The only consolation for Italy going into the game was historical -- when Italy has done well, its forwards have hit form late, such as Luigi Riva (1970 World Cup), Paolo Rossi (1982) and Roberto Baggio (1994).
But Toni could only deliver another "doggedly toothless performance" against Spain. The admirable build-up play of Antonio Cassano went to waste, and Toni was "doing little more than lumbering about, attempting to invite fouls." He failed to exploit good crosses, and surpassed himself with seven minutes to go "by deflecting Antonio Di Natale's cross out of the path of the inrushing Fabio Grosso."