It’s Group of Death day again at Euro 2008, and for the first time in three days we’ll have to keep a close eye on both games being played at the same time. If Romania (2 points) beats the Netherlands, the Romanians are in and France (1 point) and Italy (1 point) are out. France needs to win to have any chance of reaching the knockout round, while Italy can make it with a tie and some help.
Here’s how I’m seeing the games:
Italy vs. France (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN). Amazing but true: at least one of the World Cup ’06 finalists will be eliminated today, perhaps both. The best European soccer rivalry in recent years gets an added zing with both teams playing for their tournament lives. Romania can make this game a moot point with a win over the Dutch, but we don’t see that happening (see below). France absolutely needs to win here, so look for Ray Domenech to lose some of his caution and send the boys forward. Antonio Cassano might get a start up top for Italy, but I’m thinking Luca Toni will be the man of the hour and finally connect on one of his trademark headers in the box. Lord knows he’s been getting plenty of service from Fabio Grosso and Gianluca Zambrotta. Italy 2, France 1.
Netherlands vs. Romania (2:45 p.m. ET,
ESPN2 ESPN Classic). No, I don’t like any set-up in which it’s in the Netherlands’ interest to tank a game. But the fact is that while some teams might consider doing that, I don’t include the Dutch to be among them. There’s just too much pride in Marco van Basten’s side, and this Oranje team has a chance to feature among the all-time greats if it keeps its run going. In a tournament that has rewarded attacking soccer, it wouldn’t be right if the defensive-minded Romanians got through. Netherlands 3, Romania 1.
Who do you like to get through Group C alongside the Dutch? Please post your comments below, and check back in for a Euro Blog update after today’s games ...