EM: France, Romania, Italy and Holland
France 0 – Romania 0
Beni Thurnheer, whose in-game exclamations usually tend towards the annoying, put it perfectly with this turn of phrase: “Ein unglaublich langweiliges Spiel aber auf einem sehr höhen Niveau”. In English, that’s “An unbelievably boring game, but played on a very high level.” Both sides were good and showed strong defense, but it was a ninety-minute snooze-fest. The French coach walked onto the field after the final whistle, clapping slowly; it was hard to determine whether he was genuinely applauding or whether he was clapping sarcastically.
Italy 0 – Holland 3
The first half ended with Holland in the lead by two goals. With the marked lack of replays, we had to wait until half-time to get a good look at the first Dutch goal, which was not offsides on a technicality. It was an exciting match because there was a lot of action around both goals, with only Holland capitalizing. It’s not that Italy had no offense—it’s more that they seem to have left their much-vaunted defense at home. Once Matterazzi left the field, things were marginally better and the addition of Del Piero kicked the Italian offense into high-gear.
The build-up through the midfield made for exciting football—and seemed to have the Dutch on their heels for a good half an hour—but they didn’t create too many high-quality shots. Holland looked quite good, though it’s hard to argue that they didn’t also get pretty lucky; they profited immensely from a counterattacking style we’ve actually come to expect from Italy against an Italian side that had a defensive style we would expect from a pickup game at the park.
Italy tried on different playing styles like they were trying on hats. The team only boasts about half of the players it had when it won the World Cup two years ago and they are notorious for being slow out-of-the-gate in tournaments. They showed some good football and will probably get it together to squeak out of the first round.
The Dutch looked very good and probably got a lot of confidence out of the match; it will be interesting to see how their style works against the very defensive French and Romanian teams.