When looking at the group of death for my preview post I thought that Italy, the world champions, and France would be the teams to go through, and that Holland and Romania would be the two teams to struggle. Not only that but I had a deep feeling that Holland could actual disappoint and finish bottom of the table, especially with France and Romania drawing the opening group match. It may still play out that way but the performance of the Dutch team tonight has opened my eyes to the serious challenge that Holland will put forth for the title. Crushing the world champions 3-0 was a great call to arms for the Dutch team and a demoralising blow to Italy.
The Italian team are not the same team that won the World Cup two years ago, missing the rock solid centre back partnership of Cannavaro and Nesta, as well as the aging stars now being even older. However what Italian teams always are is tight at the back. Barzagli is a very good defender and more than capable of filling in for Cannavaro, and with Buffon in goal there defense will always be strong.
Tonight the Dutch gave a master class in counter attacking football. Their first goal was very lucky, with van Nistelrooy offside by a long way, he even kept looking at the linesman all the way into his celebration, expecting him to raise his flag, but the next two were brilliant, attacking, flowing, quick, counter attacks. Sneijder;s finish for the second was technique of the highest quality. The third and game killing goal started with van der Saar saving brilliantly from a Pirlo free kick and ended with the ball in the back of the Italian net.
I still maintain that the Dutch are weak in defence and will be tested in their next two group games. But the tectics they employed tonight made full use of their strengths – which are all in attack. Sneijder and Van der Vaart are brilliant in midfield, and in van Nistelrooy they have the ultimate goal scorer. With van Persie and Robben to be added to the team they will bring even more speed and cunning to their counter attacks and this could be the strategy to take Holland all the way,
They will look to carry on in the next game, without getting carried away after this win, but if van Bastens team are to play to their strength, and make full use of the talents of Sneijder, Van der Vaart, van Nistelrooy and van Persie, they could be the most dangerous team in the tournament, as well as the best to watch.
For Italy, they will have to put this game behind them, chalk it off as a bad day against a very good performance, and look to win their next two games, as well as bringing their goal difference up, and will still have hopes of getting through.
Group C has lived up to its bill after only the first round of games. The next two rounds should be very interesting, and if Holland have their way, very entertaining.