Date:Monday June 9 2008
Italy never lack confidence. The whole country is buzzing with it and before a World Cup or a Euro championship, their fans usually make all the noises, claiming they are superior to everyone else.
Now they are the World Cup holders which of course makes them all the more smug and everything - but now they were well and truly brought back down to Earth.
Dear old Ruud might have been offside - I think he wasn't as Panucci, lying outside the pitch, played him onside according to the rules - but his finish was undoubtedly clinical. Holland had been the more impressive and threatening side before the goal and soon added a second through some brilliant counter-attacking.
Italy obviously missed Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro but for me the midfield was the most baffling. Engenaar - who heard of him? - Sneijder and Van der Vaart completely dominated Gattuso, Pirlo and Ambrosini, three World Cup and Champions League winners. Holland were incisive, quick on the break and reasonably solid at the back whereas Italy were neither.
And of course the Dutch had a great goalkeeper to call upon in times of trouble and Edwin was confident throughout, his one-hand save from Andrea Pirlo's free-kick was particularly impressive. Not long after the Dutch sealed the win though my malicious self must mention that Kuyt almost blew the chance as he failed to control Sneijder's perfect pass... but he made amends by a great cross to man-of-the-match Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Italy were taught a lesson tonight in the first really enjoyable game of the Euros. It will be interesting to see how they recover from it - as interesting as it will be to find out whether France and Romania can play football. They did their best to prove the opposite.
It was never likely to be a classic. Selecting Anelka and Malouda was foolish, to say the least, and Raymond Domenech will probably get a lot of bashing for picking the two out-of-form Chelsea men. Abidal was as ineffective as all season but Domenech is seemingly oblivious to the fact that instead of trying to coax the best out of the Barcelona footballer he can call upon the best left-back in the world.
But I'm not fussed; in fact, I'm happy that Evra did not take part in his borefest that might have deprived him of his will to play football - it almost deprived me of the desire to watch it ever again. This Romania v France game was probably the worst game ever played at a European Championship; I'm at a loss to find any game even remotely as boring as this one was. The Romanians' negativity and France's lack of flair and ideas made it truly unwatchable. The brightness of Holland's display was like an oasis in an infinite desert.
Still, three days and six games have passed but in neither of the matches could both teams score. Maybe Greece v Sweden tomorrow...
Date:Monday June 9 2008
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