Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Italy in Jeopardy After Being Routed by the Dutch

The Dutch certainly made the first surprise of the European Championship a stunner.

The Netherlands handed Italy, the defending World Cup champion, its worst loss in European tournament history, a 3-0 rout Monday in Bern, Switzerland, that left the Italians in danger of elimination in the first round.

Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wesley Sneijder scored in the first half, and the standout defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst added the third goal on a counterattack in the 79th minute.

“It was a historic feat,” Netherlands Coach Marco van Basten said. “This was Italy, the world champion. I cannot name one player who played poorly.”

Italy’s once-proud defense looked old and slow. Van Nistelrooy tore through at will. With the injured captain Fabio Cannavaro sitting on the bench, Marco Materazzi and Andrea Barzagli were picked apart by the Dutch attack.

“It was one of the ugliest games in the last 12 years,” goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. “In the name of the entire team, I think I have to apologize to all the Italian fans.”

The victory put Netherlands in charge in its tough first-round group. The Dutch have the only win in Group C after France tied Romania, 0-0, earlier in the day.

Italy argued that Van Nistelrooy’s breakthrough goal was offside. Van Nistelrooy deflected a 20-yard shot from Van Bronckhorst past Buffon with an Italy defender off the field next to the goal. The three goals equaled the number of goals Italy yielded in the 2006 World Cup.

“We have been able to play superb football,” Sneijder said. “Now we have to continue in the same vein.”

FRANCE 0, ROMANIA 0 With games coming against the Netherlands and Italy, France could not afford a slow start. So a 0-0 draw with Romania in a Group C match in Zurich was not quite what the French had in mind.

The French, without their captain, Patrick Vieira (left thigh tear), and leading scorer, Thierry Henry (thigh strain), dominated possession but failed to solve a tough Romania defense.

The best chance for a goal fell to France striker Nicolas Anelka in the 33rd minute, but his header sailed over the crossbar.


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