Devastating Dutch sweep Italy aside(Lead)June 10th, 2008 - 7:05 am ICT by IANS
Berne (Switzerland), June 10 (DPA) The Netherlands put themselves in a strong position in the so-called “group of death” when they swept to a 3-0 victory over world champions Italy in their Euro 2008 match in Berne Monday. It was a first Dutch victory over Italy for 30 years, leaving the Azzurri looking a pale shadow of the side which won the World Cup two years ago.
First-half goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy (26th) and Wesley Sneijder (31st) put the Dutch firmly in the driving seat and Giovanni van Bronckhorst completed a remarkable night for Marco van Basten’s side with a third 11 minutes from time.
“I am very proud of the team,” van Basten said.
“It was a really nice game from us and also an historic game. We hadn’t beaten Italy for 30 years. To win 3-0 against a team like Italy with so much experience is something we really didn’t expect.
“The spirit in the team is really good and with the ability we have we can have some nice dreams.”
Italy went into the Group C game with the statistics firmly on their side, having lost only twice to the Dutch in 15 internationals and having beaten them on penalties the only other time they met at the Euro finals.
But there were signs that age may be catching up with the Azzurri who were run ragged at times by a Dutch side, and untypically were twice punished by classic counter-attacks.
Italy coach Robert Donadoni said: “We conceded goals in a naive way. I don’t want to debate the first goal. I think it was pretty clearly offside.”
The next challenge for Italy comes Friday in Zurich when they will have to overcome Romania, who drew 0-0 earlier in the evening with France. On the same day, the Dutch play the French in Berne.
“We have to accept this defeat. We have another two games and now we have to think of these,” Donadoni said.
A capacity 30,777 crowd, most of them clad in orange and supporting the Dutch, saw their side in devastating form in the first half and fully deserving of their two-goal half-time lead.
The Oranjes were unlucky not to take the lead in the 19th minute after Ruud van Nistelrooy could have earned his side a penalty after being set up by Dirk Kuyt.
However, in a show of sportsmanship, the Real Madrid player did not go down when Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon touched him with his foot after the striker had pushed the ball past.
Van Nistelrooy was rewarded for his honesty just seven minutes later when Buffon managed to clear a Kuyt cross, but the ball fell to Wesley Sneijder.
The Real Madrid midfielder played a cross into the Italian six yard box, where an unmarked van Nistelrooy, played onside by Christian Panucci, who was lying behind the goalline after having crashed into his own goalkeeper, had a simple task of tapping in.
On the half-hour Sneijder, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, added another for the Dutch when he managed to score a spectacular goal from an acute angle after running on to a Kuyt cross.
A brilliant defence-splitting Rafael van der Vaart pass nearly gave Van Nistelrooy his second of the game two minutes from the break but Buffon was quickly off his line to block the shot.
Italy, who had never lost an opening match at their six European Championships, struggled at the back without injured captain Fabio Cannavaro.
Man-of-the-match Sneijder, van der Vaart and the towering Orlando Engelaar were also sharper in midfield despite the probings of Andrea Pirlo, while Luca Toni up front had little change from Dutch defenders Joris Mathijsen and Andre Ooijer.
Fabio Grosso came close for the Italians in the 78th minute and a minute later Edwin van der Sar saved brilliantly from an Andrea Pirlo free kick, but every time Italy had a chance the Dutch hit back.
From van der Sar’s save the Dutch broke immediately and scored their third as Kuyt’s cross at the end of a swift move found Giovanni van Bronckhorst whose header was pushed over the line by Gianluca Zambrotta.
The result sees Italy under tremendous pressure to avoid a similar fate as they did in two of the last three Euro finals, where they were knocked out in the first round.
The Dutch will meanwhile advance to the quarter-finals if they beat France Friday.
Van Basten said: “They are a very difficult team for us. And we also lost against Romania in the qualification so it won’t be easy.”
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