Marco van Basten celebrated his finest moment as Holland coach by leading his team to an “historic” 3-0 victory over his good friend Roberto Donadoni and world champions Italy.
The Dutch beat the Azzurri for the first time in three decades in their Euro 2008 opener in Bern and handed Donadoni, who just signed a two-year contract extension, his worst defeat as national team boss.
“I am very proud of my team,” said Van Basten. “We have won against Italy, the world champions.
“This is an historic win because I don’t think we have ever beaten the Italians 3-0.”
A stunned Donadoni wore a brave face after the defeat, and insisted his players would be able to fight back in their next game.
“We had an off-day,” said Donadoni. “The game started badly and finished terribly for us.
“Our intention was not to start this tournament and concede a 3-0 defeat.
“I was not surprised by Holland’s display, they played as we expected them to play.
“The first goal complicated our lives and I thought we were very naive in the second goal. We reacted well in the second half and despite having chances, it was not to be.”
Van Basten was pleased with Van Nistelrooy, who scored the opener, but also with his entire team.
Just two years ago at the World Cup in Germany, Van Basten had a rough ride in his first big tournament in charge.
Tonight, they played just several days after losing winger Arjen Robben to injury, and had no problems overcoming his absence.
“I am very happy because my team played as a team,” said Van Basten. “We had to do without several players, including Robben, and the team reacted and showed a lot of spirit.”
Italy are now in danger of crashing out of the European Championship at the first hurdle, just as they did four years ago in Portugal.
“We have to be optimistic and forget about this game,” said Donadoni.
“We need to bounce back in our next game against Romania, an encounter which has now become crucial for us.
“We will learn from our mistakes and make sure we don’t repeat them.”