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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Euro 2008: Italy 2 x France 0: Donadoni's Last Stand

Mister Donadoni refused to release his lineup to the press; in fact, several players, quoted anonymously, said that they rarely knew if they were going to start until hours before the game.

Most likely, as is his custom, there will be several changes. He rarely plays the same team consecutively, which in my opinion, is one of the problems of his tenure. Rumors were that Antonio Cassano would start, and that one of the mainstays of this team, Andrea Pirlo, would be dropped to the bench. (The latter would prove to be false).

Discussion about a "Biscotto"

Four years ago at Euro 2004, Norway and Sweden needed a 2 x 2 draw to advance and eliminate Italy. Their goal was achieved amidst much discussion that the game was fixed, or "biscotto," in Italian. Today, we have another scenario where Holland, by losing to Romania, would directly eliminate two fierce rivals, France and Italy.

I don't think it will happen because Marco Van Basten has integrity, and the Dutch have a lot of momentum that needs to continue into the elimination round. While the situation four years ago has received significant debate, the fact remains that betting odds for a draw changed significantly before the game began. And the 2 x 2 was not achieved until very late in the game. But as I said then, and will iterate now, Italy should not rely on the fair play or anything else from other teams. Four years ago, they were eliminated because they could not produce the goods. If the Scandinavians conspired for a certain result, all is fair in love, war, and football. :-)
Note: Mr. Van Basten started 9 new players tonight.
Jose' Mourinho on the Situation
“I understand why there is talk about a fix,” Mourinho told Tuttosport.

“To be honest I think that if Holland were to meet France or Italy in the final four the story could be quite different from that of the first phase.

“Holland can’t be held responsible for the fact that the Italians and the French are begging them to help."
Source: Football Italia.

Tactical Changes from Game with Romania

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

(Italy wore the white kit tonight).

He had five changes from his squad that took to the pitch against Holland. Tonight in Zurich, he had only two:
Rino Gattuso for Mauro Camoranesi. Antonio Cassano for Alex Del Piero.
I thought that Camoranesi would have been an integral part of his game plan. Especially with his speed and energy on the wings. But Mr. Donadoni opted for the bull-dog tenacity of Gattuso in the middle of the park.

First Half

The pitch was very wet and slick in Zurich. The Azzurri were in complete white, which has not always been a lucky color scheme.

Luca Toni had an early chance in the 4th minute that went wide to the left. A few minutes later, Ribery was injured during a tackle by Zambrotta. Unfortunately for Franck, he appeared to severely injure his knee or ankle and had to be stretchered off. He was replaced by Nasri. Panucci had a powerful header from a corner kick that Coupet or a defender cleared off the line. Italy was looking more crisp and resolute than in their previous outings at Euro 2008.

In the 24th minute, Abidal dragged down Toni in the area. He was red carded as the last defender, and Andrea Pirlo clinically converted the spot kick past Croupet in the upper right hand corner of the net. After that, Italy attacked with abandon to deliver the knock out punch against a demoralized French side. De Rossi and Toni came very close, but again, the big man could not finish past Coupet, which has been a recurring theme.

On a fast counter, Thierry Henry barely missed to the left with Buffon beaten. A few minutes later, Coupet made an excellent save on a free kick by Grosso.

Second Half

Benzema had a good chance for France but missed wide. Toni, again, could not finish. The other game was 0 x 1 for Holland. At this point, Italy would qualify at the expense of Romania and France. After 10 minutes, Max Ambrosini replaced Pirlo. In the 62 minute, from a free kick that was deflected off of Thierry Henry, Daniele De Rossi produced the second vital goal for Italy. After that, the winds in the French sails were deflated.

Italy survives, and will face Spain on Sunday in Vienna. Holland will meet either Sweden or Russia in Basel on Saturday.
Tonight was the first win over France in normal time after a 30 year drought.
  • Five Olympique Lyon players started for France, along with Fabio Grosso for Italy.
  • Two Barcelona players who played together this past year, Henry and Zambrotta, faced each other tonight.
  • Pirlo and Gattuso will miss the next game due to sum of yellow cards.

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