Friday, June 13, 2008

EURO 2008: Seventh Day Events

Italy v Romania 1700GMT, Zurich
France v Netherlands 1945 GMT, Bern
BERN - Italy go into tonight's game with Romania desperate for a win after getting thumped 3-0 by the Dutch in their opening game. Coach Roberto Donadoni looks certain to bow to public demand by ditching his unsuccessful 4-3-3 formation and bringing in old favourite Alessandro Del Piero to support Luca Toni in attack.

ZURICH - Romania and France will be on the attack too after their dismal 0-0 encounter in Zurich, which leaves the Dutch perhaps in danger of complacency after their shotgun start to EURO 2008. The Group of Death is alive and kicking.

Some snowdrops from the Alps:

FROMAGE Ā TOI - A slice of Gruyère is on its way to Italian striker Luca Toni, for a cliché and metaphor-ridden reaction to his country’s 0-3 humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands: “We lost a battle, not the war”, he protested, adding “Winning is a good medicine.”

HONEST GUV – Toni’s teammate Gianluigi Buffon is in hot water with coach Roberto Donadoni after calling Italy’s collapse in Bern “the worst Italian performance in the last 12 years”.

OFF LIMITS – French coach Raymond Domenech has added his name to the list of football folk who were not aware of the specificities of Law 11 of the rules, the one which adjudged the wounded and immobile Christian Panucci to be actively involved, lying on the ground behind the goal as Ruud Van Nistelrooy netted. "If I have got his right," said Domenech, "the offside rule has changed. You remain in play even when you are off the field. That is good to know. But now I hope this doesn’t apply to spectators too because it gets a bit complicated if you’re including a fan behind the goal."

I COULDN’T POSSIBLY COMMENT - Arsene Wenger has shown he is full of the joys of an Alpine Spring by calling EURO 2008 a disappointment so far, perhaps concentrating too much on France’s abject 0-0 with Romania.

"The quality of play shown is not what we were expecting," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. Too many teams have played with timidity and a fear of losing for his liking and few have wanted to express themselves creatively instead. Holland v Italy Wenger thought was only such a firework display, because Les Bleus’ bore-draw had handed top spot in Group C to the victor in Bern that night. That makes a change. Normally when Arsene doesn’t like something he pretends not to have seen it in the first place.
FLIRTING WITH STEALTH - When he drops anchor at Stamford Bridge after Euro 2008, expect Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to be less blunt in his criticisms than predecessor Jose Mourinho. When asked about Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s ‘was-it-wasn’t-it’ goal against Italy, Big Phil said of the Dutch master of the dark arts, "He is without doubt the best player in the world who flirts with the limit of positions."

DON’T BOTTLE IT UP As if Italy didn’t have enough armchair managers (57 million at the last count), leading brewer Peroni, who make Nastro Azzurro, are advertising their wares to the Italian nation with a picture of 11 bottles lined up on the football field and the responsible slogan – "Free the football coach that is inside you", i.e. get sloshed and spout lazy abuse at your team. There certainly was no shortage of opinion on the 3-0 calamity. RAI registered over 70% of the nation’s viewers, while more than 80% of Dutch TV s enjoyed a famous victory.

A SWIFT HALF GALLON Switzerland is definitely a country of moderation. Newspapers here were at pains to report that Dutch fans camped in Avranches downed 3,500 litres of beer in three days and managed to cause no trouble to the local police force. If they had committed a ny crimes, good luck to the cops searching for a drunken fan decked out in all-orange party clothes. There are only 50,000 of them expected for their next game against France on Friday in Bern.

NAKED AMBITION Romanian ace Adrian Mutu defended his reportedly inflated wage demands to his club Fiorentina thus: "My agent thinks with his brain and he is always looking to get as much as he can in my interest." Coincidentally, a Romanian tabloid has just published a picture of said footballer starkers, tackle and all, except for a pair of sunglasses and a mobile phone, on the balcony of his team hotel. Can’t think why Chelsea wanted to get rid of him…

YOU’RE NOT WRONG, AMICO Italian journalist Carlo Nesti described the meteorological conditions at Euro 2008 thus, "Here in Switzerland it seems like you are in England. Now it’s sunny, now it’s raining. You don’t understand anything about the weather anymore."

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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