Dutch masters put brakes on Italian renaissance

10th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

A display of beautiful counter-attacking football gave the Netherlands a 3-0 win against world champions Italy, whilst France and Romania only managed an unexciting 0-0 draw

Zurich  -- The Netherlands produced a masterclass of attacking football to sink world champions Italy 3-0 in their opening match of Euro 2008 Monday while in the day's other Group C match France and Romania played out a dull scoreless draw.

Day three of the Euro provided some the most entertaining and most dour football of the tournament to date with two games that could hardly have been more different.

The Dutch stormed out of the blocks against the Azzurri and deservedly went ahead after 26 minutes when Ruud van Nistelrooy tapped home Wesley Sneijder's cross from what appeared a blatantly offside position.

However, the Real Madrid striker was played onside by Italy defender Christian Pannuci, even though he was off the pitch.

Italy were clearly missing the calming influence of the injured Fabio Cannavaro in defence and fell further behind just five minutes later when Sneijder rifled home Dirk Kuyt's cross from a narrow angle.

A brilliant defence-splitting Rafael van der Vaart pass nearly gave Van Nistelrooy his second of the game two minutes from the break but Gianluigi Buffon was quickly off his line to block the shot.

Italy improved after the break - although the Dutch remained dangerous on the counter - and nearly reduced the deficit through Fabio Grosso in the 78th minute while a minute later Edwin van der Sar saved brilliantly from an Andrea Pirlo free-kick.

But practically on the break the Dutch scored their third as Kuyt's cross found Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his header was pushed over the line by Gianluca Zambrotta.

"I would not have dreamed of such a start," said Dutch coach van Basten, who went on to downplay his side's victory.

"I do not think that we are now favourites, even though we played well. I did not expect such a result because we were playing against Italy and they have so much experience and quality."

While the encounter in Berne lived up to its billing as clash of two of the world's top sides, the game in Zurich between World Cup finalists France and Romania, the team that finished ahead of the Dutch in qualifying, was a painfully dour affair.

Romania failed to create a single goal chance of note in the 90 minutes while France's best chance fell to Karim Benzema on 57 minutes but the Lyon forward's tame shot from 18 metres was easily saved by goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont.

The draw probably helps Italy's chances of progressing as victory against France and Romania would guarantee a place in the quarter- finals for Roberto Donadoni's side.

"We now need to think about the next two games and concentrate on them," said the Italian coach.

"The nice thing is that we are now playing against Romania and that will give us a chance to show our true worth. We just have to get the three points against them."

Poland's woes following Monday's 2-0 defeat by Germany were compounded by the news that captain Maciej Zurawski is out for the remaining matches of the group stage.

Team doctors said on Monday that Zurawski sustained a thigh muscle injury in the first half of the game in Klagenfurt. He was replaced at half-time.

Zurawski will miss the next games against Austria and Croatia which makes the Polish task even more difficult to advance to the knockout stages.

There was better news for Greece coach Otto Rehhagel with the news that the German will have a full squad to pick from for the defending champions' Group D clash Tuesday with Sweden in Salzburg.

UEFA have confirmed that there will be no extra security for the Wednesday's tie between Switzerland and Turkey.

The two sides last met in the return leg of a World Cup qualifying playoff in November 2005 when players and officials from both teams engaged in a post-match punch-up. DPA

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