Day: June 9, 2008

Netherlands 3-0 Italy

…And as if by magic, the Dutch and the Italians arrived. Barely half an hour after I finished writing about a match that was described (accurately) by Alan Hansen as “one of the worst games of football I’ve ever seen”, they kicked off in Berne for a match that has finally kicked some life into the body of Euro 2008. With the truly great matches, you can retire with the knowledge that the final score of the match could have been anything. So it was tonight – Italy could just have easily won 3-0 as the Netherlands did – and it poured a breath fresh air into a tournament that had started to go stale after four matches of a mediocre nature and one outright bad one. The Italians played a full part in a breathless, dizzying match, in which play swept from one end to the other like a wave lapping against a beach, but whilst one feels a degree of sympathy for Roberto Donadoni, whose team twice saw themselves coming within an inch of hauling themselves back into proceedings, but for the scoreline to have finished with anything other than a decisive Dutch victory would have been ill reward for Marco Van Basten’s team, who cast aside their workmanlike reputation to summon up a performance that was the match of anything achieved by Cruyff and Neesken’s team...

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France 0-0 Romania

France, as the BBC’s commentator Steve Wilson said as the final whistle went, are in trouble. True enough, but we were all in trouble this afternoon, heading home from work as quickly as possible in order to catch the whole of this afternoon’s match between France & Romania. It was an absolute stinker. Neither team managed any serious shots on goal and what was so striking about the match was the Romania were so very seldom put under any pressure whatsoever. It felt as if the French either couldn’t really be bothered, didn’t have any confidence or simply believed that all that they had to do was turn up and the three points would eventually, somehow find their way to them. One suspects that there was a little from columns A, B and C at play here, but the biggest single contributing factor seemed to be a lackadaisical attitude – they gave possession away needlessly on many occasions – and the amount of space the Romania had when they did break out of defence. Where did it go so horribly wrong for France, then? It goes without saying that they have never satisfactorily replaced Zinedine Zidane after the 2006 World Cup (how could they have done?), but the lack of creativity in the centre of midfield seems to stifle the rest of the team. There is no room for...

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