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Italy reeling after worst loss in 25 years, with changes expected for must-win Romania game

Italy reeling after worst loss in 25 years, with changes expected for must-win Romania game

Italy's hopes of following its World Cup title with a European Championship have taken a hard hit.
The once-vaunted Azzurri defense suffered its worst loss in 25 years, falling 3-0 to the Netherlands in the teams' Group C opener on Monday.
"It began badly and finished worse," Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said.
The Azzurri hadn't been beaten this bad since falling to Sweden 3-0 in Naples 25 years ago in European Championship qualifying. In the tournament proper, it was Italy's worst result ever, surpassing a 2-0 defeat to the Soviet Union in the 1988 semifinals.
With captain Fabio Cannavaro out injured, the Azzurri struggled mightily in central defense. Marco Materazzi proved several steps too slow to contain Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Andrea Barzagli was often ineffective.
"We committed mistakes at the center of the defense, but it's not the two central defenders' fault _ it's everyone's fault, mine included," the coach said.
Last week, Donadoni signed a two-year contract extension, but he still risks losing his job if Italy does not reach at least the semifinals. The deal includes an escape clause that can be put into effect within 10 days after Italy ends the tournament.
Just about the only bright spot for Italy was France's 0-0 draw with Romania in the other group game. If the Azzurri win their remaining opening-round games against Romania in Zurich on Friday and France four days later, they would still have a good chance of advancing.
"Considering our loss, I have to admit that their 0-0 draw pleases me," Donadoni said. "We've got to be optimistic. That's one of the basics of our profession. Otherwise, there would be no reason to take the next plane to Zurich."
Since group play was introduced in 1980, Italy had never lost its opening match, compiling two wins and three draws until Monday's debacle.
At Euro 2004, the Azzurri opened with a 0-0 draw against Denmark and proceeded to become the first team ever to be eliminated from group play without losing.
"We're also good at making things complicated," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "Everything went great for them and everything went badly for us."
Italy's biggest problem was containing the rapid Dutch counterattack.
"When we analyze the game tomorrow, we'll realize that four or five times we allowed the Dutch to counterattack due to our own bad passes," Donadoni said.
Expect changes in Italy's lineup for the Romania game.
When Donadoni pulled Materazzi for Fabio Grosso in the 54th, he reshaped the entire defense. Grosso took over at leftback, Gianluca Zambrotta shifted over to rightback and Christian Panucci moved into central defense. That might be the starting back four against Romania.
In attack, Antonio Cassano and Alessandro Del Piero replaced Mauro Camoranesi and Antonio Di Natale in the second half.
"It's not the time to discuss these things, but it's true that Antonio and Alex gave us a good boost," said centerforward Luca Toni. "We've got to pull out something special now, because we're already down to our last chance."


Updated : 2021-03-02 03:49 GMT+08:00