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…