Holland 3 Italy 0
World champions Italy suffered a calamitous start to their Euro 2008 campaign as they succumbed to an impressive Holland in their Group C opener in Bern.
The Dutch were lucky to take a 26th-minute lead after Ruud van Nistelrooy turned in Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s effort from an offside position.
Wesley Sneijder then celebrated his 24th birthday in style by adding his team’s second on the half-hour mark following a superb counter-attack.
Italy had numerous chances to reduce the deficit after the re-start but Edwin van der Sar came to the rescue making stunning saves from Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick and then Fabio Grosso’s close-range effort.
Van Bronckhorst completed a wonderful evening for the Oranje by heading past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 79th minute as Holland celebrated their first victory against the Italians since the 1978 World Cup.
The atmosphere at the Stade de Suisse was electric with the Oranje fans far outnumbered the Azzurri supporters.
The duel between coaches and former AC Milan club team-mates Marco van Basten and Roberto Donadoni also added an extra edge to the encounter.
The Azzurri should have taken an early lead but Luca Toni failed to get behind Antonio Di Natale’s dangerous cross.
At the other end, Rafael van der Vaart’s left-footed strike forced Buffon to dive to his right to clear.
Italy replied with Toni’s header from Gennaro Gattuso’s cross going wide off Van der Sar’s near post.
In the 17th minute, Holland should have broken the deadlock following a defensive lapse by the Azzurri.
Dirk Kuyt served Van Nistelrooy who got past Buffon but lost his balance and the opportunity vanished.
Shortly after, Sneijder’s bullet strike went high over the crossbar as Holland got closer.
Midway through the first half, Materazzi did well to clear Sneijder’s free-kick with Van Nistelrooy well placed behind him.
Holland were lucky to break the deadlock with Van Nistelrooy in an offside position before tapping the ball past Buffon.
At the other end, Van Bronkhorst made a crucial goal-line clearance after a team-mate almost headed into his own net.
It didn’t take long for Holland to strike again. Van Bronckhorst’s long ball found Kuyt on the other flank and he served Sneijder inside the area, whose first-touch beat Buffon.
Italy could have reduced the deficit shortly after but Di Natale’s close-range volley was saved by Van der Sar.
Three minutes before the break, Buffon made a stunning save to deny Holland their third of the evening.
A beautiful ball by Sneijder found Van Nistelrooy whose strike was parried by Buffon.
Di Natale then fired just over the crossbar on the stroke of half-time.
Italy showed more determination after the re-start and had a good chance when Gianluca Zambrotta did well to get past Kuyt but his effort went wide.
Toni then fired wide on the hour mark as the Italians began to bare their teeth.
Shortly after, Pirlo’s stinging free-kick fizzed wide with Van der Sar already beaten.
Donadoni brought in Alessandro del Piero, who seconds later fired on target but his effort was saved by the keeper.
Just when Italy looked to have found their rhythm, Holland scored.
The goal came following another counter-attack with Buffon doing well initially to deny Kuyt. However, the rebound fell at the feet of the Liverpool forward who composed himself before crossing to an unmarked Van Bronckhorst who headed past Buffon.
Italy never gave up but Holland defended deeply and held on for a famous victory.