3-0 Oranje v. Italy – Euro 2000 demons banished for the time being

Ok – I did say that the first match result would be very important – because I was expecting ‘Les Bleus’ to totally own Romania but that didn’t happen. As it stands, the Orange team stands first in their Group now and looked very healthy to qualify!

First up – the Van Nistelrooy controversial goal. At initial glance, I’d say that it would be a clear offside – it won’t need to take someone who doesn’t know how to define what an ‘offside’ means to agree that the first goal was somewhat opportunistic and clearly had a feel of injustice to the Italian footballers but all I can say is – what about the wonderful Wesley Sneijder goal and Van Bronckhorst’s rare header and goal? Make no mistake – it may be an offside goal for the first one but the Italians had only themselves to blame if they muffed it as 2 other goals were testament to the talent of the current Dutch team which even surprised yours truly as well as European Championships winner Marco van Basten.

The article went on to ramble about the Austrian referees’ commission chairman being on record as saying that the goal should stand as the injured Christian Panucci counts as an onfield player despite him being at the position behind the goalposts. I wanted to really say that Herr Gerhard Kapl is right but no. Where no regulations seem to make express provisions on this sort of controversies, common sense should prevail. How could an injured player behind the goalkeeper be counted as being still on the pitch and playing Van Nistelrooy offside? It is probable that the linesman had similar ideas but decided to call for a goal as everything happened very quickly. If you caught the TV replays, Van Nistelrooy sort of zapped into the box to tap the ball in from close range in a split second as Sneijder released it. Typical poacher’s goal but Van Nistelrooy is no stranger to this type of goals scored. For the record, Italian top goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon condemned his team’s performance and called for a raise in their performances. It was Italy’s undoing – not the offside goal as the Italians could not find a reply to the Dutch team’s attacking speed.

I still find Wesley Sneijder a better player than Rafael van der Vaart and the 2nd goal was exactly the sort of goal the Dutch would learn to score for a long time yet. The tight angle and the near impossible odds (top goalkeeper; charging defender etc.) would have the goal labelled as a classic but Sneijder is a key man if the Dutch are to secure a semifinals placing. Yes, I was also less than complimentary about another contributor to the team yesterday, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his headed goal which was bundled in clumsily by some fallen Italian defender with Kuyt acting as the provider that time. I have the perception that his stints at Barcelona and the Arsenal was not distinguished and therefore thought little of him in the Oranje setup but I agree that he was a potent force in the attack yesterday. Let’s not forget about Dirk Kuyt; Orlando Engelaar and Nigel de Jong who played their hearts out yesterday as well. Demy de Zeeuw can forget about a first team slot now – Engelaar, IMO is a good midfielder in the making.

The captain of the team, however, is the one who should deserve some of the most accolades. Van der Sar made a couple of really good saves – the Alessandro del Piero attempt and the Andrea Pirlo freekick and kept a neat clean sheet. Naturally, there was the danger of the team slipping to sleep mode again during the start of the second half and it shows. Still, take nothing away from the fact that the Dutch just needed one more win to qualify for the next stage and put pressure on the French to buck up their insipid show.

Ratings:

1. Edwin van der Sar (goalkeeper) – 8/10. I’ve never liked Man Ure players but it’s really a case of looking at the national team cause now. He looked just as sprightly as before and saved the Pirlo freekick with great relish. Nothing like a safe pair of hands at the back to secure the defence.

=Defenders=

5. Gio van Bronckhorst (leftback) – 8/10 – Ok,ok…he was braying for then Arsenal player Thierry Henry to come join him at Barcelona which the French player did but this donkey left the club at the same instance and went home to Feyenoord. Only an ass would do that. But he’s a good one. Great goal,Gio.

4. Joris Mathijsen (centreback) – 6/10 – Average display, thoughtful defending for a change. He rarely got forward and that kept him out of trouble.

21. Khalid Boulahrouz (centreback) – 6/10 – same as Mathijsen; safe and reasonable defensive duties executed.

2. Andre Ooijer (rightback) – 6/10 – I didn’t think much about his contribution yesterday. He’s more solid than John Heitinga for sure but I think that his age is clearly showing.

=Midfielders=

8. Orlando Engelaar – 7/10 – neat job in midfield. Reminds me a lot of how utility midfielder Philip Cocu used to operate.

17. Nigel de Jong – 7/10 – the Dutch equivalent of Mathieu Flamini. Not necessarily in character but as in playing styles. He’d be running all over the field just to gain possession of the ball. Top stuff from the Hamburg SV player. He may not have Gattuso or Pirlo in his pocket but he performed a decent job.

23. Rafael van der Vaart – 7/10 – the former Ajax star is a good player but I’m really hard pressed to name his key strengths. He has a cultured left foot for sure and has good passing skills but most of his positioning is quite bizarre – anchored as it was, in centre midfield more than in attacking roles. I’m just thinking that he’s a good player but he won’t really be the sort to bang in the goals for the national team consistently. Entertainment-wise, he’s quite a dull player to watch but looks increasingly like the shadow performers such as Gilberto Silva etc.

10. Wesley Sneijder – 8/10 – he’s quite short at 170 cm but even height doesn’t have to be an issue when you can let the footballing feet do the talking. It was a great goal and it was a daring attempt even though it may be a rather sharp angle to shoot for goal with the likes of Buffon guarding the posts. His positioning is exceptional and distribution very useful to the team. In the absence of Arjen Robben, much rests on this 24 year old who recently celebrated his birthday but I’m certain that greater things are in store for him in the national team colours.

=Forwards=

18. Dirk Kuyt – 7/10 – industrious and persistent. The team needed fighters and he has shown and proven his worth. Marvellous delivery from the right for the 3rd goal. It won’t surprise me if he scores a couple of goals in this tournament, either.

9. Ruud van Nistelrooy – 7/10 – opportunistic goal poacher. It may have been a lucky goal but sometimes, we need players who really shoot for goal first and ask questions later. In perspective, so what if the goal was ruled for offside? It’s good that the first goal was flagged as an in and it counts so the team benefited from it. That’s the luck of goal poachers. Didn’t teams like Chelscunts and Man Ure really rode their luck with these sort of decisions through the years? (Van Persie goal in 2005/2006 season) and the goal which the cunt Roy Carroll plucked out from the net after Tottenham Hotspur’s Pedro Mendes has scored what looked like a legitimate goal against the world renowned cheap cunts, Man Ure. Anyway, Roberto Donadoni was a rather good sport to keep the lid in and focussed the blame on his team instead of harping on the offside goal.

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If you think, however that the team would have it easy against France – I’d think not. The French and the Romanians served up a yawn fest 2 hours before the Dutch/Italian game but I saw that their striker Karim Benzema looked dangerous and Franck Ribery had amazing dribbling skills as usual.

I think that football is a game which can be presented in 3 potential forms –  where both teams want to play and ensure serious attacking entertainment; where one turtles up whereas the other tries hard to pry it open with everything but the kitchen sink; and where both teams decided that caution is the order of the day and both figuratively dug trenches and sat back to soak up attacks.

I’d think that the Dutch/France game would be the first of the 3 as the Dutch needed one more win to qualify and the French badly needed a morale-boosting victory. They may race out of the stables from the starting whistle but I’d say that it could prove a tense match.

Oranje – Aanvalluh!!!

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