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EM: Italy, Romania, France and the Netherlands

Published by marco on

Italy 1 – Romania 1

It just wouldn’t be Italy if they didn’t require certain teams to win and other teams to lose and goal differences to be just right in order for them not to be mathematically eliminated. The game was exciting enough, with Romania having a few chances, but Italy having quite a few more—they just didn’t capitalize as often as they should have. As usual, they had one goal taken back—a nice header by Luca Toni—on a poor offsides call, but that’s become so standard that it’s not even worth complaining about. The Romanian Mutu jumped on a horrible backpass from Zambrotta to the goalie Buffon to make it an easy 1–0 for Romania. Only minutes later, Italy had already equalized on a nice header off a corner kick, dampening the Romanian celebrations.

Then, just in case there were still some Italian fans not in need of defibrillation, the referee called a penalty kick[1] in the 81st minute. Buffon was up to the challenge and parried it away to maintain the tie and keep the slim Italian hopes alive. The Romanians didn’t exactly impress and the Italians still have some work to do, but they played much better than in the first match against Holland.

Netherlands 4 – France 1

Both teams came out charging, but the Dutch slowly but surely took control and put one away in the first ten minutes on a nice header off a corner kick (similar to the earlier goal by Italy). The game was a good deal rougher than others, but there weren’t many yellow cards. The French were having a lot of trouble finding their rhythm and, despite bursts of individual brilliance from Ribery and Henry, they weren’t playing well together at all.

The second half saw the French mount incredible offensive pressure for the first ten minutes, but the Dutch put together an amazing counterattack that started with a beatiful two-footed move by Van Nistlerooy to keep the ball in and move it to Robben. After roaring up the sideline, he blasted a pass across the goalmouth, where Van Persie full-volleyed it through the French goaltender’s hands to dribble into the net and make it 2–0.

A brilliant player like Henry cannot be completely denied and he finally got the French on the scoreboard with a brilliant deflection to the far post that looked more like an ice hockey goal. He didn’t celebrate long as Robben nailed a near-post shot from an improbable angle less than two minutes later to make it 3–1 for Holland.[2]

Seconds before the final whistle, nearly three minutes into extra time, Sneijder snapped a screaming shot from the top of the box that snuck in under the crossbar and completed Holland’s double-shot of humiliating the Italians and the French. Seven goals in two games against two high-powered opponents—the Dutch are clearly not a fluke.[3]

[1] It really wasn’t that dubious: the Italian defender had his arm around the Romanian’s throat.
[2] This third goal should have been handled by the goalie, but his defense was not helping him at all. It’s a shame to see Thuram playing so poorly for the French.
[3] They also served the Italians a gift by beating the French just as badly as they beat the Italians. It’s not clear to me what happens if the Italians tie the French because then they’ll be even on points, will have tied one another, have the same goal-difference and the same total number of goals. What’s after that? It gets complicated, apparently, but see Euro 2008 Tie-breaker rules if you want to know more.