Oranje run like clockwork



Anyone who thought Italy and France were going to progress through Euro’s group of death may just need to have a rethink.  The Netherlands and Romania, who like their opening match opponents came through the same qualification group, look a better chance to make the quarter-finals on this morning’s evidence.

Romania’s 0-0 draw with France was terrible to watch but you have to give credit to the Romanian’s for disarming a much stronger and more talented French side.  Les Bleus have to answer some serious questions of desire if they want to continue past next week.

In total contrast to the opening Group C match, the Netherlands were simply unstoppable against Italy.  Much has been made of the weaknesses in the Dutch national team.  Questions over the ability of out-going coach, Marco van Basten, and injuries to key personnel in the lead-up to the European Championships have now been firmly put to bed.  A history-making 3-0 victory was richly deserved.

The Dutch fans illuminated the Stade de Suisse with a sea of orange, they’re hoping their national team can go all the way and repeat the amazing win of 20 years ago.  Euro ’88 was special, van Basten scored arguably the most memorable goal in tournament history.  Could his influence take them all the way?

Total football has been transformed into a more modern version.  The traditional 4-3-3 formation is now a 4-2-3-1 under van Basten.  Many teams in the current football climate are playing with this formation, none as good as what the Dutch displayed this morning.

When you think about it, the Netherlands have all the necessary components to execute the most positive aspects of this usually negative system.  Those being technically gifted players, outstanding self-discipline, a quick response in transition and speed on the counter-attack.  Add a brilliant target man in Ruud van Nistelrooy, who can finish and destroy, and you get a very entertaining football match from start to finish.

Although the Netherlands won comfortably, Italy can still turn it around in the next two matches.  What I observed, from the first-half especially, was the aging legs in the Italian side.  I could see the poor form of AC Milan’s midfield having an adverse affect on the reigning world champions.

Personally, I would have played Daniele De Rossi and Simone Perrotta instead of Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso.  Nevertheless, the Italians have the depth and character to fight through the next two matches.  Italy coach, Roberto Donadoni, has some thinking to do!

The Dutch were great value for the win but the match wasn’t without its controversy.  On first glance van Nistelrooy’s opener looked clearly offside.  Later clarification from UEFA proved it actually wasn’t, but how bizarre!

Article 11.4.1. of the refereeing code stipulates “an opposing player cannot be offside when one of the last two defenders has left the field of play.”  Who knew that?  Well I did, but I had to prove it in writing before anyone would believe me.  It makes sense!  Otherwise players would leave the field of play and come back on when it suits them.

So far the best two nations have been the Netherlands and tournament favourites Germany (who beat Poland 2-0).  A match-up between the Germans and the Dutch would surely be mouth watering.  These two sides have loads of young talent.  Germany are lethal and uncompromising in their approach to matches, with players like Miroslav Klose, Lucas Podolski and captain Michael Ballack, they would seriously test the Oranje outfit.

Something tells me that the Netherlands could upset the favourites though if they were to meet.  In-form midfielder, Wesley Sneijder, and the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and van Nistelrooy, could provide enough of an attacking threat to upset Germany’s solid backline.

Perhaps the reason why the Dutch made light-work of Italy is age-related.  Italy is the oldest side in the tournament with an average age of 29.57 years.  It seems as if, in the modern game anyway, players are peaking earlier than ever.  I like the look of the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, compared to France, Italy and the Czech Republic, who look beyond their best.

Maybe it’s the coaches who have the most influence these days, van Basten has certainly proved his worth, as has Germany’s Joachim Löw.  They seem to be apart of the new breed of young coaching talent emerging in Europe’s increasingly modern game.

Euro is off to a good start, there’s not been many upsets so far but expect some.  I believe in the so-called “group of death” there will be a major upset, possibly France.  Every four years the temperature rises, it’s called football fever!

We all eagerly await each match and embrace the beautiful game so intensely, in this case for 3 weeks straight.  I was talking to a friend of mine and he said, “Real fans don’t watch replays!”  Spoken like a true football fan.  So for the next few weeks, the devoted in Australia’s time zone will be looking slightly pale and tired but it will all be worth it because entertainment like this merits the sacrifice!


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