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"In any language, the whole world is united by a ball." --- Steve Amoia, World Football Commentaries

Monday, June 9, 2008

Euro 2008: Italy 0 x Holland 3: Dutch Dominate Azzurri

Netherlands v Italy - Group C Euro 2008
Image details: Netherlands v Italy - Group C Euro 2008 served by picapp.com

For video highlights, please click here.

Gigi Buffon
captained his country for the fourth time.

For the first time at this level, Andrea Barzagli and Marco Materrazi paired up in the back four. Surprisingly, Daniele De Rossi was benched in favor of Massimo Ambrosini, which gave the Italian midfield a complete AC Milan flair. Unfortunately, both tactical decisions would prove fateful.

The quality of this game was in stark contrast to the previous Group C match between France x Romania. In the 12th minute, Luca Toni had a clear header but missed. After that, the Dutch masters took over. In the 13th minute, Ruud Van Nistelrooy circled around Gigi Buffon, but wasn't able to convert on an open goal. They kept attacking, and seemed to split the Azzurri defense, in particular, Materazzi, on several occasions. Andrea Pirlo seemed to play too far back in this tactical alignment due to the absence of De Rossi.

In the 26th minute, from a scorching shot by Wesley Sneijder, Van Nistelrooy redirected past Buffon for their first goal. He appeared to be offside, and Italian appeals proved unsuccessful because Christian Panucci was pushed into touch by Buffon. Thus, there were two players in front of the Dutchman. Six minutes later, on a great counter attack begun by Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder doubled the lead on a beautiful volley past Buffon to the near post from a headed assist by Dirk Kuyt.
The half ended, 0 x 2. Mr. Van Basten had an excellent game plan: Maintain ball possession and attack the middle of the Italian defense.
Fabio Grosso replaced Materazzi in the 51st minute, and that change seemed to give Italy better organization. Despite Italy needing two to equalize, the tempo of the game slowed down, as the Dutch seemed more cautious.

Alex Del Piero replaced Di Natale in the 64th minute. He had an immediate shot on goal, and followed with another a few minutes later that was off the mark.

Toni again missed a virtually open goal. Antonio Cassano entered the game in the 75th minute, but had no impact. For Mister Donadoni, his changes were too little too late.

Netherlands v Italy - Group C Euro 2008
Image details: Netherlands v Italy - Group C Euro 2008 served by picapp.com

In the 79th, Van Bronckhorst killed the game with a header past Buffon that appeared to deflect off Gianluca Zambrotta. Again, on a classic counter attack after Van Der Sar made an excellent save at the other end on Pirlo's free kick.
It is rare for Italy to concede three goals; however, few would argue that they were dominated from start to finish tonight in Bern. Both on the pitch, and off of it. Except for Mr. Donadoni, who apparently saw a different game than most of us.

"Were we dominated? That is your evaluation."
Well done, Holland. Mr. Van Basten led them to their first competitive victory over Italy in 30 years.

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