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Group C Day 3 pre-game predictions – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Who would have thought pre-tournament that France v Italy could have no meaning for either side? As it stands, if the two draw, Romania would go through unless they lose by more than three goals. If, however, Romania doesn’t beat Holland, the winner of the France v Italy game goes through.

France has apparently not lost to Italy in regular play over 90 minutes since 1990. While this is too close to call and Panucci and Chiellini don’t really inspire that much confidence in me, and Zambrotta is going to be struggling against Henry or Ribery, I think Italy wins this match. Buffon is going to be tough to beat and will make the difference. Also, Italy has been creating chances – they just haven’t been able to score. I think that changes today.

There have been rumblings that Cassano is going to start alongside Toni. I think that’s the right move. He’s been very creative and slippery while playing in the hole behind Toni. That’s the way we assume Del Piero would have played, but he didn’t do much in the last game. So start Cassano on the left behind Toni and keep Camoranesi on the other side to do a lot of the running. The midfield has got to start Aquilani alongside Pirlo and De Rossi. While there may be a desire to start Gattuso, given the magnitude of the game, I would not do that. Aquilani and De Rossi are more offensive minded players and De Rossi can play the holding role very well. Bring Gattuso on late in the second half if you are ahead and need to protect the lead. Aquilani has a very good shot, is good going forward and has young legs, which you are going to need today. Perrotta is not the answer for this game.

For France, it is simple. Play the best team, Domenech. Here, I will do it for you. Henry and Benzema up front. Ribery, Nasri and Malouda behind them, with Maka or Diarra as the holding midfielder. While Toulalan has played well, I think Diarra has more quality going forward. Evra, Gallas, Thuram and Sagnol at the back with Coupet in goal. If you are scared of this lineup being too aggressive in the first half, start both holding midfielders and drop Malouda. However, you need to be aggressive and try to score the first goal. You are not playing Turkey, so you should be good if you score the first goal.

Romania – everything seems to be in your favor. The Dutch will be aggressive and open but without their best players executing the total football game plan. That plays into your hands. Plus, you have taken four points out of six from them in qualifying. So you know their personnel and style. Just don’t give up the first goal to the Dutch and you will be fine. The other issue, of course, is that you are going to have to play for 90 minutes without a let up as the Dutch are going to try to score, and are capable of doing so, for 90 minutes. Don’t give in to the temptation of starting only Mutu upfront. That’s fine as far as the lone striker goes, but you have to have at least two wingers close to him and coming up with him in attack all the time. That’s how you can score against the Dutch on the counter. Looking forward to Huntelaar starting. Rat, get ready for a tough game – you are going to have to excel.

CH12 predicted that France and Holland go through. It will be interesting to see if that happens. I don’t think so, as I believe Italy will beat France.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1, Romania 1 Holland 1

I have said Hup Oranje, Allez Francaise, Forza Italia. It’s only fair to say Hai România…

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Italy vs Romania – pre game prediction

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

Forza Italia…

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Netherlands vs Italy – Half time

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….

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Group of Death – Day 1 Predictions. France vs Romania and Netherlands vs Italy

With the injuries mounting on both sides – Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Ryan Babel out for the Dutch and Cannavaro and possibly Panucci out for Italy – it’s going to be interesting to see if the Dutch can score and if the Italians can defend! I think it will be a bit of both but the Italians should normally score more than the Dutch if the two wingers (Babel and Robben) are out. However, since this is the first game in the group, I predict a scoring draw. Should be fun to see if Ruud van Nistelrooy and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar start up front for the Dutch and Toni and del Piero on the other side. I prefer the Italian midfield with Pirlo, De Rossi and Gattuso to Van der Vaart and Sneijder.

France will benefit from Vieira being out as it will get Ribery more of the ball. Benzema is going to clean up with Ribery and Henry (or Anelka or Gomis or Gouvou if Henry is injured) playing with him up front.  Looking forward to seeing Nasri out there at some point.  France wins.

With all the injuries, I may have to change my initial prediction on who comes out of the group. If Van Persie and Robben don’t come back by game 2, Italy and France could move on. Don’t count Romania out (Mutu is still the man at Fiorentina), but I just don’t think they will be able to surprise anyone in the group as every point counts. I’ll stick with the Dutch and French for now.

Monday, June 9, 2008
Time Home Away STAGE TV VENUE
12:00 ET Romania 1 v 2 France Group C Letzigrund Stadium
14:45 ET Netherlands 1 v 1 Italy Group C Stade de Suisse Wankdorf

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