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Unified Dutch hand Italy unpredictably heavy loss

Holland played with flair, and as a unit to record 3-0 victory

Ruud van Nistelrooy runs during their Group C Euro 2008 soccer match against Italy at the Stade de Suisse Stadium in Bern, Switzerland on Monday.

Ruud van Nistelrooy runs during their Group C Euro 2008 soccer match against Italy at the Stade de Suisse Stadium in Bern, Switzerland on Monday.

Italy are notoriously slow starters at major finals, but not even their most pessimistic fan imagined they would begin Euro 2008 by suffering their worst defeat in a tournament since the 1970 World Cup final.
Trounced 4-1 by Brazil in one of soccer's all-time great games in Mexico City, the hammering they took from the Dutch on Monday could have been even worse.
Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon made three outstanding saves, including one from point-blank range from Ruud van Nistelrooy just before half-time.
The irony was that Italy could have been ahead, with a header that Luca Toni directed wide, even before Van Nistelrooy's controversial opener in the 26th minute - a goal that was allowed to stand even though he looked offside.
The debate will rage whether Italy defender Christian Panucci, lying outside the field of play after being bundled over the line by a collision with Buffon, was still "active" or not and therefore playing Van Nistelrooy onside.
It did not appear so, but the referee and linesman decided he was, and the goal stood. Law 11, which covers the game's offside rule, will be widely quoted in the next few days.
However, once Wesley Sneijder made it 2-0 with a superbly taken volley five minutes later, the match looked beyond the Italians who usually defend so soundly and are so hard to beat.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst's third after 79 minutes completed a memorable night for the Dutch, who had not beaten Italy for almost 30 years since their last win over them in the 1978 World Cup finals.
While the Italians usually start tournaments slowly, the Dutch normally start tournaments in disarray after a series of internal rows, fall-outs and injuries.
This year's pre-tournament convulsion resulted in Clarence Seedorf pulling out of the squad, unhappy with the role Van Basten had for him while injury has hit Arjen Robben's chances of shining.
But those problems were forgotten as the Dutch produced a real team performance. Their passing was crisp, their running intelligent and the sheer joy of the third goal when the entire bench leapt as one man to acclaim it spoke volumes.
Donadoni must lift his men for the match against Romania in Zurich next Friday, and a victory is by no means assured.


Updated : 2021-04-20 11:19 GMT+08:00