In the games on day three of the Euros we went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Actually it was the other way round as the early game between France and Romania was quite dreadful and the evening game between Holland and Italy was superb.
One of the pundits on the BBC in England described the France against Romania game as the worst game of football he has ever seen. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have gone quite that far but it really was bad. The Romanians will be pleased that they set out to get a point and achieved their goals. The French will be devastated that they produced so little.
In some ways, Romania may actually be slightly disappointed because the French were so bad that had they shown any adventure whatsoever they may well have taken all three points rather than just the one.
France totally failed to live up to their billing as one of the favourites for the tournament. They produced absolutely nothing. I cannot remember the Romanian keeper being forced into a save. Anelka headed over in the first half with his only contribution to the whole game and Malouda shot wide in the second half with what was also his only contribution.
Ribery, who has been so outstanding for Bayern Munich this season, was totally anonymous and the exciting young talent, Benzema, sought after by many of EuropeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top clubs, failed to produce a single moment of note.
It is difficult to describe in words just how bad this game, and particularly the French side, was. The fact that neither goalkeeper made a save in the entire game tends to speak for itself. The French showed no passion, desire, ingenuity, creativity, endeavor, or in fact any ideas at all.
This really was a game where both sides were lucky to get nil!
Then, just when I was worried that the tournament that had started so brightly might begin to disappoint, a game occurred that reminded us all why we love Football.
Holland took on the current world champions Italy in Berne. The Dutch team, as so often in the past, is full of talented individuals but took to the field amidst rumours of being a very unhappy camp. The Italian side were without their inspirational captain Cannavaro who was injured prior to the start of the tournament, but entered the game with high hopes of becoming only the second team ever to hold both the World Cup and the European Championship at the same time.
As it turned out, the Dutch side produced a performance of at times breathtaking quality. Although Italy looked a shadow of the side that won the World Cup and seemed to miss Cannavaro more than many thought they would, they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually that bad. It was a case of Holland being good rather than Italy being bad.
There was a huge stroke of good fortune with HollandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opening goal when Van Nistlerooy converted from a position of being at least a yard offside. Somehow the linesman inexplicably failed to raise his flag and the goal stood. It was no more than Holland deserved but it was very fortunate.
The second goal was one of the best counter attacking goals you are ever likely to see. Van Bronckhorst cleared the ball off the Dutch line from an Italian corner and seventeen seconds later Wesley Sneijder put the game all but beyond ItalyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reach. A flowing move ended with Van Bronckhorst crossing for LiverpoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dirk Kuyt to head into SneijderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s path and the Real Madrid man made no mistake.
In the second half Italy pressed forward and Van Der Saar had to be at his best on a couple of occasions. HollandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s third goal came about following the best of the big Manchester United goalkeeperÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s saves. He saved brilliantly from a Pirlo free-kick and once again Holland broke with astonishing pace and efficiency. Van Bronckhorst, showing amazing amounts of energy, burst forward again and set up Kuyt. After KuytÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s initial shot had been saved by Buffon, he crossed the ball back in for Van Bronckhorst to head home a fully deserved third goal.
If Holland can produce this type of performance throughout the tournament they will be almost impossible to stop. A bigger issue maybe whether they can keep their internal discipline within the squad.
Italy will need to regroup but they will have little fear of playing Romania or France if they saw that game and will still be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals.
A day that started so abysmally and boringly ended on a real high. The difference in the mood between footy fans in Paris and in Amsterdam must be far greater than anyone thought it would be prior to yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s games.
The Dutch have joined the Portuguese and the Germans in making a statement that they are here to win.
Today we will see if the Spanish can join the club.
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