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Group C post game – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Form held and Holland and Italy are through. As I suspected, Buffon was tough to beat and his save off Benzema’s curler was world class. Coupet played great too with a couple of amazing fingertip saves – one off Grosso’s freekick that he put onto the post and another one off Toni that the ref didn’t catch. But Italy played the cards they were dealt with very well and did enough to see France off.

Now for the rant. Yes, losing Ribery was very unlucky. And yes, it is a harsh rule that sees the last man off along with the granting of a penalty. Yes, it was an unlucky deflection of Henry’s foot on De Rossi’s wayward looking free kick. However, France lacked inspiration and I blame that on Domenech. You are the worst at picking a team that I have ever seen. Abidal in the center of defense? With Toni to deal with and Gallas not the tallest man either. Are you kidding me? Then you start Gouvou instead of Nasri. Then you bring on Nasri for Ribery and take him off when you are trailing 1-0. Are you crazy? There went the bit of creativity and drive you had in the middle of the park. You want to play with two holding midfielders still? OK. Take off Gouvou for Boumsong then. Now, for Boumsong. Is there a reason you chose him ahead of Mexes to play in central defense? Better you had Distin in the squad then that stiff.

One more pet peeve. I don’t like the last man rule when there is a penalty as well. It seems to me that that is doubly harsh. I think it’s absolutely right to send the last man off when he takes down an attacker outside the box. But the double whammy of going a man down and giving up a penalty is a bit much.

The Dutch and the Spanish have got to be nervous with the Italians now in the quarters. Having said that, I don’t know how the Italians are going to fare without Pirlo. The Dutch also look so good that I don’t think they should be overly concerned if they have to face the Italians. One thing we have to keep in mind is that this Italian team is a bit old and games every three days are going to take a toll by the time the semis roll around. Should be fun.

Players of the game – De Rossi (though Pirlo and Grosso were very good) for Italy and Henry for France.

Romania – nice try but you paid for missing the penalty against Italy and not scoring when you had good chances against Holland in the first half. Holland looks very good and it’s always good when Van Persie keeps scoring. He needs the confidence since he’s missed most of the regular season – and a fresh, confident Robin Van Persie is deadly.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1

Result: Italy 2 France 0

Scorers: Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

Pre-game prediction: Romania 1 Holland 1

Result: Romania 0 Holland 2

Scorers: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robin Van Persie (Holland)

Sweden v Russia. I can’t wait. This is going to one where I am cheering for Russia as that would set up an amazing game against Holland. Hiddink v Van Basten. Total football all around…

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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 – post game

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…

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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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