Friday, June 13, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Day 7 Recap

Italy 1, Romania 1
Holland 4, France 1

Any questions? Holland continued their dream run through the Group of Death with a 4-1 win over France. The win clinches the top spot in Group C for Marco Van Basten's men after a sweep of the finalists from the 2006 World Cup. As they did in their opener, Holland took the early lead but continued to press from there. Dirk Kuyt put Holland up 1-0 at the break with a tenth-minute header off a corner kick. In the second half Van Basten's subbed in more attacking players in Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Robben scored the second goal in the 59th minute, but the heroes on the play were Ruud van Nistelroy, who made a brilliant sideline maneuver to keep the ball in play and feed Robben, whose long run ended with a cross to van Persie. Thierry Henry netted France's first goal in the 71st minute, but a minute later Robben restored the advantage. Wesley Sneijder capped the scoring with an extra time tally.

Holland's entertaining play through two games evoke memories of the "Total Football" squads of the '70s which were twice World Cup runners-up, and the 1988 squad, led by Van Bastern, that won the nation's only European title. Key to Dutch success has been the contributions of players such as van Persie and Robben whose health was questionable coming into the tournament. Clearly this team is clicking at the right time and having locked up Group C, they enjoy the luxury of resting a bit in their final group stage game.

As for France, they incredibly remain in the picture along with Italy and Romania after those sides drew 1-1. A lively second half saw Adrian Mutu put Romania ahead 1-0 in the 55th minute, taking advantage of a botched head back by Gianluca Zambrotta. It took only one minute for Italy to level the game off the foot of Christian Panucci. Panucci was a central figure in the 80th minute, when his foul in the box gave Mutu the chance to steal the win from the penalty spot. But Gianluigi Buffon made a brilliant sprawling save to secure a valuable point for Italy.

The results leave Romania in second with two points, in control their destiny. But if the Romanians fail to beat Holland, the winner of the Italy-France match will advance.

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