Thursday, February 2, 2023

Dutch deliver total football masterclass

Italy 0-3 Holland

By Andy Greeves

Holland rolled back the years on Monday evening, producing a fine display to stun world champions Italy in Berne.

Having won the European Championships twenty years ago, Marco Van Basten saw his Dutch side score two of the finest team goals of the tournament’s history, as they cruised to a 3-0 victory. On this performance, Holland will fancy their chances of beating anyone at Euro 2008. They oozed class and their win was as much a credit to their hard work as fine passing and individual brilliance. Italy, despite having a host of chances and large spells of possession in the second half, were simply outclassed. Former Tottenham manager and ITV co-commentator David Pleat described the occasion as “a night that reminds us why we love football”.

Following a lively opening, Ruud Van Nistlerooy gave the Dutch the lead on 26 minutes in the most controversial moment of Euro 2008 so far. Italy failed to deal with a Van der Vaart corner and Gianlugi Buffon could only fist the ball into the path of Wesley Sneijder. His powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area was converted in the six yard box by Van Nistelrooy, who was clearly in an offside position. The Real Madrid man looked to the Swedish officials as if he were expecting his strike to be disallowed, but referee Peter Frojdfeldt had clearly been unsighted in the build up to the goal which was allowed to stand. The Italians appealed furiously, with Luca Toni booked for his demonstrations.

If the first goal was fortuitous, the second, just five minutes later, more than made up for it. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, one of the players of the match, cleared an Italian shot off the line, then steamed up field to support a counter-attack. Van Brockhorst received a pass from Van der Vaart inside the Italian half and delivered an inch perfect cross on to the head of Dirk Kuyt. The Liverpool forward cushioned a header into the path of the on-rushing Wesley Sneijder, who lashed a volley from an impossible angle beyond Gianluigi Buffon. The deadly strike brought back memories of Van Basten’s goal in the 1988 European Championship final, the move itself carried all the hallmarks of the fine Dutch sides of the past, Cruff et al. The construction of the goal had taken a mere 17 seconds for Van Bronckhorst to clear of his line to Sneijder volleying home.

Holland had a number of excellent chances to put the game beyond Italy in the first half. Before giving Holland the lead, Van Nistlerooy had been denied a good call for a penalty, as he was clipped by Buffon on 17 minutes. Just before the break, Van Bronckhorst lay a defence splitting through ball to Van Nistlerooy, who’s shot was blocked by Buffon, sparing further Italian blushes. Italy offered little in the first half and the 4-3-3 formation, recently deployed by Roberto Donadoni, didn’t seem to get the best of the Auzzuri’s big name players. Di Natale volleyed high and wide the final minute of the first half, rather summing up Italy’s first 45.

Donadoni did get a response from his men in the second period. Italy were dominant in possession for large parts of the remainder of the game. The introduction of Lyon full-back Fabio Grosso gave Italy an recognised outlet in a wide position, an option they missed in the first half. Luca Toni had arguably Italy’s best chance of the match on 75 minutes, being put through one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar by Gennaro Gattuso. But the Bayern Munich man fluffed his opportunity, weakly lobbing over both keeper and cross bar.

The match’s decisive moment came just minutes later, in a near carbon copy of Holland’s second goal. The diminutive Andrea Pirlo hit a beautiful free kick for Italy that produced a world class save from Van der Sar, stretching to his right hand corner and palming the ball away. The Dutch picked up possession and four precise passes later, Dirk Kuyt went through on Italy’s goal. Buffon saved Kuyt’s effort but the ball fell to the imperious Wesley Sniejder who crossed for Van Bronckhorst to head Holland’s third, despite Gianluca Zambrotta’s effort to clear on the line. It could have got worse for Italy, when Dutch substitute Afellay’s run and subsequent shot clipped the cross bar. A fourth goal would have been harsh on an Italian side, who had caught Holland in irresistible form.

The Dutch now top Group C, the so-called ‘Group of Death’, after their victory and France and Romania’s earlier goalless draw. The bookmakers odds on the Holland repeating their famous victory of 1988 will be significantly lower tomorrow following a night of total football.

Italy (4-3-3)

Buffon, Panucci, Barzagli, Materazzi (Grosso 55), Zambrotta, Ambrosini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Camoranesi (Cassano 75), Toni, Di Natale(Del Pierro 64)

Booked Toni, Zambrotta, Gattuso

Holland (4-3-2-1)

Van der Sar, Ooijer, Boulahrouz (Heitinga 77), Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst, Kuyt (Afellay 81), De Jong, Van der Vaart, Engelaar, Sneijder, Van Nistelrooy (Van Persie 70)

Booked De Jong

Goals Van Nistlerooy 26, Sneijder 31, Van Bronckhorst 79


Referee – Peter Frojdfeldt (Sweden)



Andy Greeves



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14 years ago

What a mistakes in this article! First, Van Nistelrooy was not offside, as the UEFA later confirmed. But more impartant the players who were involved in the goals and other changes: Not Van Bronckhorst, but Van der Vaart put Van Nistelrooy clear to Buffon for the change for 3-0 at the end of the first half. End with the third goal, it was indeed Kuyt who was denied by Buffon, but after that Kuyt went on and he gave the cross that Van Bronckhorst headed home. And with the Italian change of Luca Toni in the 75th minute, that was… Read more »

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