Italy hang on, Holland march on

14th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

A wonderful match between Holland and France saw the Dutch come out 4-1 winners and win Group C at Euro 2008. Current world champions Italy held on for a 1-1 draw against Romania after a brilliant save from keeper Gianluigi Buffon

Berne, Switzerland -- - Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was the hero for Italy in Euro 2008 action Friday as his penalty save against Romania kept the world champions in the hunt for the place in the knockout stages.

The Netherlands had no such worries as an exquisite 4-1 win over France in Berne saw Marco van Basten's side book their place in the quarter- finals with a game to spare as winners of Group C.

Buffon saved a late penalty kick from Adrian Mutu as the world champions came from a goal down against Romania to salvage a 1-1 draw in Zurich.

Mutu took advantage of a defensive blunder by Gianluca Zambrotta on 55 minutes to put Romania in front but within a minute Italy were level when Christian Panucci tapped in from close range after Giorgio Chiellini headed back across the goal of Bogdan Lobont.

But Italy, who lost 3-0 to the Netherlands in their opening match, were staring a second defeat in a row in the face when, with nine minutes remaining, Panucci was adjudged to have fouled Daniel Niculae in the area.

However, Buffon managed to brilliantly parry Mutu's penalty and salvage a vital draw, which gives Roberto Donadoni's side their first point of the campaign.

"Buffon was brilliant today, but the same can be said about all the players," a relieved Donadoni said afterwards.

Italy now meet France in their last game on Tuesday in a repeat of the 2006 World Cup final with at least one team guaranteed elimination.

If Romania manage a victory against the Dutch, who are already guaranteed top spot with an unassailable six points and will most likely field a second-string side, then both will be going home early.

The Netherlands built on the 3-0 thumping of Italy in their opening game with an equally emphatic 4-1 victory over France.

Dirk Kuyt headed home a Giovanni van Bronckhorst corner after nine minutes to put the Oranje in front and substitute Robin van Persie made it 2-0 just short of the hour-mark, finishing off a lightning counter-attack involving Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben.

Thierry Henry pulled one back for Raymond Domenech's side on 71 minutes, deftly steering a Willy Sagnol cross past Edwin van der Sar but within a minute Robben restored Holland's two-goal lead, beating France goalkeeper Gregory Coupet from the narrowest of angles.

Wesley Sneijder then made it 4-1 for the Dutch with a superb strike from outside the area with virtually the last kick of the game.

"We're still trying to get our heads around this," the Netherlands' former Manchester United striker Van Nistelrooy said.

"We couldn't have expected this, we didn't have the best of form in the qualifying or coming in, but now it seems it is all falling into place.

"Now I think the confidence is there and it's lifting the team."

Title holders Greece trained at the Wals-Siezenheim stadium in Salzburg ahead of Saturday's crunch Group D encounter against Russia with coach Otto Rehhagel insisting his team will continue to play to their strengths.

Greece have been heavily criticized in recent days following the 2-0 loss defeat to Sweden in their opening game but Rehhagel said his team had "come to terms" with that loss.

But the 69-year-old German said that while he respected the technical skills of Guus Hiddink's Russian side he saw no reason to change his formula of play.

"They are players who can play wonderful football, great combinations and a young team that is willing to give its all.

"But it is irrelevant how strong the opponent is, all that matters is what we do," he said.

"We will play according to the strengths of our players and I know them better than anyone else."

Hiddink, meanwhile, said his side will continue to play an attacking style of football despite going down 4-1 to Spain in their opening match.

"I think we should play football," said Hiddink.

"We won't react (to the loss) by changing our concept or our style because I think this young team must get used to a certain way of playing, which is modern."

Germany are confident they will rebound from defeat against Croatia and advance into the quarter-finals.

"There is pressure but we are able to cope with the pressure. We have shown before that we can hit back," said coach Joachim Loew.

"We won't be eliminated. We are strong enough to get the points we need," he insisted.

Meanwhile, several operators of food and beverage stands in the Vienna fan zone have closed down, because they say business is slow and prices are too high.By Friday afternoon, five stands had closed, with more saying they were thinking of doing the same. One operator said he had sold only one sandwich and three glasses of coke on Friday. DPA

0 Comments To This Article