Monday, June 9, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Day 3 Recap

France 0, Romania 0
Holland 3, Italy 0

The greatest moment in Dutch football came 20 years ago in winning Euro 1988. But in terms of a single-game performance, this afternoon's 3-0 thrashing of Italy may stand as the finest effort in team history. Employing a brash, attacking style, Holland jumped to a 2-0 lead at the half and crusied to victory. The brillant counter attack that lead to the second score is an early candidiate for the goal of the tournament. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst made a goal-line clearance off an Italian corner kick, then sparked a breakout that resulted in a long pass to Dirk Kuyt, whose centering pass was one-touched home by Wesley Sneijder in the 31st minute.

The controversy surrounding Holland's first goal five minutes earlier may be limited since the end result was so convincing. Ruud van Nistelrooy was clearly in an offsides position when he slotted home the first goal. Officials later explained that the presence of defender Christian Panucci, injured earlier in the play and lying off the pitch next to the goal, kept van Nistelrooy in an onsides position. But when you saw the Real Madrid striker's reaction- 10 seconds of looking for a flag before celebrating- it was clear he knew he got away with one.

The tournament is by no means over for Italy, but they'll need a better performance up front from Luca Toni if they are to improve from today's effort. The Bayern Munich striker missed a pair of close chances to get Italy back in the match.

In the first game, injury-riddled France, without Patrick Viera and Thiery Henry, looked off their pace in a goalles draw with Romania. Scoring chances were limited for both sides and it remains to be seen what contributions France will get from their hobbled stars. Romania played a smart game defensively but will need to show some creativity on the other end if they have designs on escaping the Group of Death.

Thursday Italy face Romania while France meet Holland. The 2006 World Cup Finalists are both on the wrong side of the momenum meter after day one, and we'll see if Holland's performance is a preview of greatness or a one-hit wonder.

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