Italy coach Roberto Donadoni believes his country's 30-year unbeaten run against Holland will count for nothing when the two sides meet in the first major clash of Euro 2008 here on Monday.
The Dutch have not beaten Italy since the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, when a 2-1 win booked their place in a final which they lost to the hosts.
Since then, the Italians have won six of the eight meetings between the two countries, including a memorable penalty shoot-out win in the semi-finals of Euro 2000, with the other two matches drawn.
“Everything about the past is interesting,” Donadoni said on the eve of the match. “But it has no bearing on the present. The present is about the players who will go on the pitch on Monday night.
“It would be extremely presumptous of me to think we can beat Holland simply because we have not lost to them in 30 years.
“We'll do our utmost to beat them but it is not going to be easy, that's for sure.”
Monday's match will bring the world champions up against the Dutch for the first time under Donadoni, offering the Italian coach the opportunity to pit his wits against his old AC Milan team-mate Marco van Basten.
The two men were key components of Arrigo Sacchi's great team of the late 1980's and Donadoni admits that both of them were greatly influenced by the time spent under the legendary coach.
“Undoubtedly having had Arrigo Sacchi as a coach has influenced us in our choices as managers,” he said. “It was an important experience for both of us and it has stayed with us.
“I'm not in regular contact with him any more because we have gone our separate ways. But we usually meet up once or twice a year and I spoke to him two or three months ago. We were friends before, we're friends still and there is great respect between us.
“When we were players I never really thought about becoming a coach and I'm not sure if Marco did.
“Because of our shared past in Milan I know something about how he thinks about football but I don't know how he trains his team.
“I can only assess his capacity to work with different formations and I've seen Holland playing, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and even 3-5-2, which they used recently against Wales, so that shows how knowledgeable he is.”
Both teams will be without big players with Italy having lost captain Fabio Cannavaro for the entire tournament to an ankle injury while the Dutch will have to do without Arjen Robben for their opening match.
The Italians have asked UEFA for permission for Cannavaro, who has been given a VIP pass for the tournament, to join his team-mates on the bench.
Donadoni played down the significance of Robben's absence, the Real Madrid winger having suffered a groin strain in training.
“You could say he is an important player and it is an advantage for Italy but Holland, like Italy, has 23 very good players and they have a skilled coach who will be able to replace him with a player who will probably be even more motivated to play. So I don't think it makes too much difference.”
The Italian coach is expected to ask Marco Materazzi to slot into Cannavaro's role alongside Palermo centreback Andrea Barzagli with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon taking the captain's armband – although he was not planning to finalise his line-up until Monday morning.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!