Euro Wrap, June 13th
Marco van Basten’s Netherlands side proved today that their opening win over Italy was no fluke, and dominated France by the same three-goal margin. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a tournament favorite.
The Dutch are through to the quarterfinals and have clinched the top spot in the group. Even more striking is the fact that they now have the ability to sink both France and Italy by fielding a weakened side in their last match.
That match will be against Romania, which has now managed half of the feat that Holland has accomplished. They haven’t won in their two games against the World Cup finalists, but they haven’t lost either, and a win over Holland guarantees them a quarterfinal spot, mostly likely facing Spain.
More on the games, below.
|GROUP C||June 13, 1800 CET, Zurich (Switzerland)|
Toni (called offside, but you be the judge):
I never thought there would be a point in my life when I would stand up for the Azzurri. But in this one game, they were robbed a bit. Toni’s header, which would have been the opening goal, was onside. Another in the long line of referee mistakes that has come to somewhat define this European Championships. As is the case with all early decisions, we can go back and forth all week about what would have happened after that, with Italy up 1-0. The plain fact is that it didn’t happen, and despite Luca Toni being served approximately 700 balls in the box, that was his only goal. A bit more finishing, and it would have been an academic argument.
Things for Italy looked to have gone from bad to worse in the 55th minute, when Adrian Mutu picked up a horrible Zambrotta backpass and converted to put the Romanians up 1-0. Amazingly, it was Italy chasing the game … for about 30 seconds. Christian Panucci, who gets his goals when they are most needed, played Mr. Clutch one more time, tapping in a goal that will never make the highlight reel, but that was absolutely vital for Italy.
Tragedy almost struck again for Italian fans, and hope rose for the Romanians, as a penalty was awarded to the Tricolorii. It was Mutu at the spot, with the chance to take his nation to the quarterfinals, and push both France and Italy into the rubbish bin. But the Fiorentina man couldn’t bury it, taking what I have to call a rather weak penalty, which is to take nothing away from the fine save from Gigi Buffon. It remained 1-1, and that was how it would end.
|GROUP C||June 13, 2045 CET, Berne (Switzerland)|
So many goals, you only get one video with all of them.
The result was deserved, if not the scoreline. Neither side played poorly, but Netherlands were the ones to take advantage of opportunities and put the ball in the net, something that is becoming a bit of a habit for them at Euro 2008.
Dirk Kuyt opened the scoreline in the 9th minute, heading home a corner. This seemed to take the wind out of France’s sails for the next fifteen minutes, and they struggled a bit before finding their bearings again, but then France took control and dominated possession but were unable to put the ball away. And they weren’t helped in the 48th, when Ooijer kept out a probably France goal with a handball in the box that wasn’t called (despite many French protests.)
With enough offensive talent to fill at least two squads, Holland went to their bench, and the now-fit Robin van Persie, who made himself the third “someone-van-something” to net already for Holland, putting the Oranje up 2-0. Then it was France’s turn to put something of a mark on the game. Thierry Henry had been given a number of fine chances, putting a trademark turning shot just wide of the top corner, and missing high once as well. But in the 72nd minute, he would open his Euro 2008 account with a subtle little nudge in that brought the French back into contention.
As with Romania earlier, the celebration would be short indeed.
Apparently feeling sympathy for the guys out there on the internet editing goals together, the Dutch decided to make it easier, scoring their reply in what might be record time, off of Arjen Robben. Before the French fans even stopped cheering for Henry, his goal was effectively erased. That is the thing that I think has surprised a lot of us about Holland in this tournament, their ability to hurt their opponents on the counter. You can’t play total football without that ability, and the Dutch have proven they can counter with the best of them. And they weren’t done.
As injury time ticked away, and the French prepared to sulk off to the locker rooms, they got a swift kick in that direction from the very in-form boot of Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder netted his second, which could end up being a very meaningful one for France, since it puts them and Italy equal on goal difference. Without that last proverbial nail in their coffin, France would have the advantage in the event of a draw with Italy. Now, not so much.
Today’s matches set up an awesome last day of Group C next Tuesday. Romania can advance by beating a Netherlands side who not only have nothing left to play for, but from whom Romania took four points in qualifying. Italy and France, meanwhile, play each other in a winner-take-all (or maybe nothing) battle, hoping that the Dutch won’t go too easy on Romania. I know we’ve said it before, but the group of death is living up to expectations, and it’s the Dutch playing reaper.
Today, 4 points were awarded in our Euro 2008 Bracket Predictor Contest, two for the Netherlands reaching the quarterfinal round, and two for them winning Group C. That makes a total of 14 points out of 120 now on the board. As had to be expected, the Group of Death has thrown a spanner into so many people’s predictions, and there are only six perfect scores left. Check your standings at http://bracket.worldcupblog.org
Those counters sure are killers. I loved it. Henry making his fancy goal and the “alright, we’re back in the game” look. French fans all cheering, all hope is not lost. Then boom, from an impossible angle. This stuff truly is priceless.
I think there is nothing to worry about regarding Holland taking it easy on the Romanians. You may see some of the substitutes play but seriously, Anyone that thinks players like Huntelaar, Affelay and Huitinga coming on will mean an easy game have another thing coming. I am hoping they get an opportunity to showcase their talents. This bench is very deep…
Robert I sure hope you are right!! But then France has to WIN against Italy to make it, no easy feat!
I like it how every single comment on every single post in every single gameday of this tournament has never given any sort of credit to the Romanians for not only being where they are but also for having the opportunity to sink both WC finalists. In people’s minds, both results so far have either been flukes or “putting everyone behind the ball”. After Romania finishes 2nd in the group I hope at least some of you will come to realize that maybe France and Italy are not so strong anymore and maybe just maybe, will you stop putting you’re team’s failures on the back of refereeing decisions. Get over it, sh*t happens decisions are made all the time. True champion teams are the ones who can overcome these errors and continue, which has not been the case for both France nor Italy so far.
I have always been very sceptical of this Dutch team. The players are all top class but they never seemed to gel. Now they do and it is difficult to see anyone beat them, unless their luck with refereeing decisions runs out. But it is precisely that luck that you need to become champions.
Posted from Netherlands
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