Heroic Holland stun Azzurri

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 last night.

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.

“I am very proud of my team,” said Dutch coach Marco 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 Roberto 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 the Italian coach. “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 but despite having chances, it was not to be.”

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.

Holland were lucky to break the deadlock, with Van Nistelrooy in an offside position when he diverted 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.

Three minutes before the break, the Italian goalkeeper made a stunning save to deny Holland their third of the evening, when a beautiful ball by Sneijder found Van Nistelrooy whose strike was parried by Buffon.

Donadoni brought in Alessandro del Piero after the break, 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.

Subs for Holland: Heitinga for Boulahrouz 77; Afellay for Kuyt 81; Van Persie for van Nistelrooy 70.

Subs for Italy: Grosso for Materazzi 55; Cassano for Camoranesi 75; Del Piero for Di Natale 64.


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