Group C Final Match Preview and Predictions
Sunday July 9th 2006, 11pm. Italy had just beaten France to become World Champions for the 4th time. The sound of car horns blaring could be heard in every major city in the Western world as Italians celebrated a historic win and looked forward to a new golden age of football for their country. The party carried on for a good week in Italy as the drink flowed and a line was drawn under the Serie A match fixing scandal, the conquering heroes returning home with the world trophy held aloft, Italy celebrating as one.Today, just under two years later, Italy and France face elimination from a group they were expected to walk through. If Romania win, no result will put either side through and to be fair, they don’t deserve to, France especially. Italy have shown glimpses of quality, but they look out of date and out of step. Losing Cannavaro was a massive blow, but one player does not make a team go from second favourites to also rans. A prime example of the tactical straightjacket that Donadoni works inside of was shown was in the Holland game. With the score 1-0, instead of pushing an extra forward on, he changed the left back. Tonight, Donadoni has to release the shackles on his side to have any chance of qualifying.France on the other hand have been utterly dreadful. Easily held at bay by Romania in the opening game, ripped apart by Holland’s free flowing football in the second, only a miracle of fate and chance will see them qualify. Is Domenech’s job under threat? You would have to say at this moment in time he looks like a dead man walking. He’s blamed the players, but when you don’t pick players based on their star signs, you are entering a world of trouble. I’m sure Phillipe Mexes feels sorry for the manager.Thuram looks like a 36 year old and Holland zipped past him with ease, Makelele seems all at sea, Vieira clearly unfit. To stand any chance of progressing, Domenech has to ring the changes, bring in Diarra, Nasri, Benzema and Gomis need throwing in. Players who want to play for France for the next 10 years and who have to show what they can do but at the back, it was made for Mexes to play. Instead Boumsong and Squillaci stand by as replacement centre backs which would not inspire confidence by any stretch of the imagination. I think this will end up with an Italian win, probably 2-1 or 2-0 but I don’t think it matters if they win 7-0.In the other game, Holland will be resting 5 or 6 key players, knowing they are safe and looking forward to playing either Sweden or Russia next. Romania know they have to equal the result in the other game to be safe, Piturca will be instilling in his players the achievement they stand on the threshold of completing, the size of the task that they will have accomplished and they will be up for this without any shadow of a doubt. Holland will not be going at this with any great zest, the Quarter Final looms large on the horizon for the Oranje and no-one wants to get injured and miss out. I’m going for a Romania win by the odd goal, 1-0 or 2-1 and with it, Romania will have written another piece of history in European Championship folklore.By the way, the last time a team beat two World Champions in a European Championship Finals group, as Holland have in this group, was in Euro 2000, when Portugal beat both England and Germany. Can you guess which team finished runners up in that particular group? Yes, Romania.