Tuesday, 10 June 2008

[Euro 2008] Azzurri reaction

Italy boss Roberto Donadoni refused to get drawn into a row about Ruud van Nistelrooy's opener in his side's 3-0 defeat by Netherlands at Euro 2008.

Van Nistelrooy appeared to be clearly offside as he diverted Wesley Sneider's long range shot in from six yards.

"I accept it," said Donadoni. "The referee made a mistake. He's human."

But, as Italy's Christian Panucci had been injured moments earlier and was off the pitch, an Austrian referee official insisted the goal was legal.

Chairman of Austria's refereeing commission Gerhard Kapl backed the decision by Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt and said it was "100% correct, without any doubt".

Kapl pointed out that article 11.4.1. of the refereeing code stipulated that "an opposing player cannot be offside when one of the last two defenders has left the field of play".

He explained the rule was brought in to stop players deliberately stepping off the field of play to make an opponent offside.

But the Azzurri would argue that Panucci was off the field because he had been caught by keeper Gianluigi Buffon as he tried to meet a cross just before the goal.

Van Nistelrooy looked at the linesman before reeling off to celebrate after the goal stood, while Netherlands team-mate Dirk Kuyt said he thought the goal was offside.

The Dutch went on to secure a crucial win in which Italy's defence looked anything but the watertight unit the national team has built its reputation on.

"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."

Italy captain and centre-back Fabio Cannavaro had been ruled out of the tournament in the build-up to Euro 2008 and his absence proved pivotal.

"It's real tough to play without your captain. We missed him a great deal, but we're going to have to do better," said second-half substitute Fabio Grosso.

Italy now face Romania on 13 June and France four days later as they bid to qualify what has been dubbed the group of death.

"We have to be optimistic and forget about this game," Donandoni added. "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."

Goalkeeper Buffon hopes Italy can recover from their 3-0 defeat - a result he sees as the low-point of his Azzurri career.

"We played the worst game since I joined the national team 12 years ago," the 30-year-old captain said.

"We apologise to every Italian fan. We hope we will react immediately and show our pride in our next game."

Italy's defeat in Berne was their first against the Dutch for 30 years and their heaviest in any tournament since they were beaten 4-1 by Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final.

Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero, who came on as a second-half substitute, added: "It was a negative evening for everyone.

"Everyone feels in some way responsible. We have to work on improving what didn't work. We just have to think about Friday now and try to forget what was an ugly evening for us."

And fellow striker Luca Toni, who endured a frustrating evening against the Dutch, is also confident of putting things right when they meet Romania in Zurich.

"We were very disappointed after the game," the Bayern Munich star said. "But we looked into each others' eyes and all of us know perfectly what there is at stake in our next game.

"We have a few days to understand what went wrong and to try to play a great game against Romania. We usually play our best in do-or-die games - now we'll have to do it again.

"It was not our night against the Dutch. However, we have to forget that game quickly and start to think about the next two. With two good results we will go through - we have to think positive."

The Italian media were particularly critical of Donadoni, with headlines on Tuesday calling for the return of 2006 World Cup-winning boss Marcello Lippi, who stood down after his success in Germany.

"Honestly, that was something I expected," Donadoni said.

At a press conference, the Donadoni came under fire for his team selection, the age of his squad and even his failure to raise his voice in post-match interviews.

"Mamma Mia! - criticising someone for their tone of voice is a mistake," Donadoni added.

"The only certainty is that we lost and the only thing we can do now is try to straighten things out for the next game."

Source: BBC

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