That was an exciting game. We saw more chances, in total and on both sides, than we have seen in any one other game. It was tactical at times and end to end at others. As tall as Toni is, if he were a couple of inches taller or his legs were a few inches longer, he would have had a hat trick. He was so close on a handful of chances – and the one he scored at the end of the first half was wrongfully denied on a bad offside call. Brilliant save by Lobont on De Rossi’s header. Unbelievable penalty save by Buffon off Mutu. Great finish by Mutu on Romania’s first goal. The back four of Romania played quite well at the end of the day.
The coaches need to be commended as well. Donadoni was brave in making as many changes as he did. I would have put in Aquilani instead of Perrotta, but all in all it was a good lineup. I actually thought that Cassano was more effective than Del Piero when he came on. Romania also played a good game and had a ton of chances that would have made them winners if they were facing another goalie.
Both teams are alive. If Italy beats France, they will go through if Romania doesn’t beat Holland and Holland gets a point off France. Lots of permutations, so Buffon’s save was huge. Players of the game for the two teams were Buffon for Italy and Mutu (in spite of the penalty miss) for Romania. It’s tough to toil out there by yourself and he took the chance off Zambrotta’s mistake brilliantly.
Pre-game prediction: Italy 1 Romania 0
Result: Italy 1 Romania 1
Scorers: Adrian Mutu (Romania) Christian Panucci (Italy)
On to the Oranje and Les Blues…
Italy has to win. Romania could be okay with a draw. Regardless, Romania will play for a draw and hope to pull off a counter attack winner. Straight to the point – Italy wins 1 to 0.
Donadoni, start Del Piero and Di Natale along with Toni up front. Bench Camoranesi, though I think he’s a great player for a knockout game. For the midfield, it should be Pirlo, Gattuso and De Rossi. Bench Ambrosini. And if you are feeling like being even more aggressive, which you should be since Romania is not going to put as much pressure in midfield, I’d start Aquilani in place of Gattuso. De Rossi can play the holding midfield role. Start Zambrotta at right back and Grosso at left back. Chiellini and Barzagli in the middle.
Romania – do what you did with France and hope you can get a goal off a dead ball. Contra, Chivu, Rat and Tamas did a great job in the last game.
Pre-game prediction: Italy 1 Romania 0
Yes, it’s shocking that the Dutch are two up at the half. But what’s more shocking is that Ruud van Nistelrooy has missed two one on ones on top of that – this game should be long over. You could bet the house that Ruud would have had at least a double if not a hat trick by now with the chances he has had. That’s why Buffon is the world’s best keeper on the first chance. Anyway, a clear offside put the Dutch ahead and the second goal was a brilliant finish by Sneijder. That’s the only way you get past Buffon. However, as I pointed out in my earlier blog, I can’t go with an Italian defense that is not like the Italian defense of old. It showed on the second goal – where were Materazzi and Barzagli in closing down Sneijder? Other than Buffon and Di Natale, none of the Italians has done anything.
Donadoni, this is what you need to do. You have lost the midfield battle and Pirlo hasn’t had a touch. Bring in Aquilani and Del Piero for Ambrosini and Gattuso. Have Aquilani push up down the middle – he has a great shot. Maybe even substitute De Rossi for Zambrotta at the 60 minute mark if the score is the same and go to a back three. The Dutch back line is not that good. You have to put pressure – especially down the left wing where Bouhlarouz has no pace. Del Piero and Di Natale need to run at him.
This could get ugly if it’s 2-0 at around 60 minutes and the Italians have to press upfield….