Sunday, 8 June 2008

[Euro 2008] Donadoni ready for Dutch test

Roberto Donadoni will come face to face with an old friend when Italy meet the Netherlands in their Group C opener on Monday, but the Azzurri coach is determined to "put one over" on his ex-AC Milan team-mate and Dutch counterpart, Marco van Basten.

Donadoni and Van Basten go back a long way. Part of the famous Milan side that swept all before them – winning four league titles and three European Champion Clubs' Cups between 1988 and 1994 – the former cultured midfielder and deadly striker are still as thick as thieves.

Now, though, Donadoni will put sentiment to one side as he aims to scale the heights as an international team coach.

"Over the last few years we've seen each other quite a lot," explained Donadoni. "We probably meet up twice a year or so as we have a great friendship that dates back to our playing days. But we know that this is an important match, so when we see each other we will shake hands like old friends and then try and put one over on each other."

Along with Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit, the Italy and Netherlands bosses both played under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello before stepping into the coaching arena themselves.

Donadoni admits that this apprenticeship played a key part in their tactical development.

"There's no doubt that we had some very good teachers, from whom we learned a lot," he said. "We all experienced some very special times, playing for a great side like Milan, and so these experiences undoubtedly helped us. It must be satisfying for the people who coached us. I learned much from Sacchi, Capello and others and now I hope to pass on what I learned to my players."

After the Netherlands, Donadoni's players must also face Romania and France and he knows that coming through this daunting-looking section will not be easy.

"I can only see good sides in this group. They came through tough qualifying campaigns and so they all have great potential to do well. We know they will pose us all sorts of problems, as we will them. We just have to put everything we have in the balance, as will our opponents, and in the end each of us hopes our qualities will outweigh the other."

Donadoni believes that Italy's qualification for the tournament is already an achievement in itself given that the last time they won the World Cup, in 1982, they failed to reach the European finals in France two years later.

"We reached this tournament after coming through a decidedly difficult qualifying section – and history wasn't on our side. But when it came to the crunch my players showed that they were good enough again and they deserved to get reach this stage. So we're looking forward with a positive frame of mind."

Source: UEFA

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