Top Stories

Euro 2008: Group C Preview


Italy. France. The Netherlands. Three of the best teams in the world. All in the same Euro 2008 group. All vying for one of two places in the quarterfinals. Oh, and yeah, there’s also that team Romania, the team that finished unbeaten in a qualifying group that included the Netherlands.

This is a Group of Death if there ever was one.

How do you pick a favorite in Group C? Do you go with Italy, just two years removed from winning the World Cup? France, bolstered by the emergence of Karim Benzema? The Netherlands, always a strong attacking squad? Or Romania, the forgotten club with more talent than people realize?

Italy was the easy favorite before Fabio Cannavaro was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle injury. The ‘Azzurri’ still might be the pick considering the way France has looked in recent friendlies.

The Dutch are third choice, especially after losing Ryan Babel. They still have Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wesley Sneijder, but I ‘m not sold on Robin van Persie staying healthy of the Dutch defense holding up.

The Romanians deserve respect and could very well emerge if one more more opponents look past them. The opening match against France could be the upset of the group so look for Adrian Mutu to star for his squad.

Here is a closer look at Group C:



MONDAY- Romania vs. France (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 11:50 a.m.
MONDAY- Netherlands vs. Italy (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.
JUNE 13– Italy vs. Romania (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 11:50 a.m.
JUNE 13– Netherlands vs. France (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.
JUNE 17– Netherlands vs. Romania (ESPN Classic), 2:30 p.m.
JUNE 17– France vs. Italy (ESPN, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.



PLAYERS TO WATCH– Luca Toni, Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele DeRossi

NAME TO LEARNGiorgio Chiellini. Most people know him as the teammate who injured Fabio Cannavaro but that’s an unfair label for a player who truly is the future of Italian defending. The 23-year old Juventus center back should raise his international profile quite a bit in this tournament.


Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Marco Amelia (Livorno), Morgan De Sanctis (Sevilla).

Defenders: Christian Panucci (AS Roma), Fabio Grosso (Lyon), Marco Materazzi (Inter Milan), Gianluca Zambrotta (FC Barcelona), Andrea Barzagli (Palermo), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Alessandro Gamberini (Fiorentina).

Midfielders: Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Simone Perrotta (AS Roma), Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Alberto Aquilani (AS Roma).

Forwards: Luca Toni (Bayern Munich), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Marco Borriello (Genoa), Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria).

OUTLOOK– How do you bet against the world champions? With Buffon in goal, Pirlo, DeRossi and Gattuso in midfield, and Luca Toni up top, the Italians are still the pick to win this group, though winning the tournament might be a stretch without Cannavaro.



PLAYERS TO WATCH– Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Thierry Henry, Florent Malouda

NAME TO LEARNSamir Nasri. If you didn’t catch a glimpse of the 20-year-old midfielder before, you won’t want to miss it. His speed, shiftiness and creativity make him a joy to watch. Just how much playing time he gets on this veteran team remains to be seen.


Goalkeepers: Gregory Coupet (Lyon), Sebastien Frey (Fiorentina), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Lyon), Francois Clerc (Lyon), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), William Gallas (Arsenal), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Sebastien Squillaci (Lyon), Lilian Thuram (Barcelona).

Midfielders: Lassana Diarra (Portsmouth), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon), Patrick Vieira (Inter Milan), Samir Nasri (Marseille) Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich).

Forwards: Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Karim Benzema (Lyon), Bafetimbi Gomis (Saint-Etienne), Sidney Govou (Lyon), Thierry Henry (Barcelona), Florent Malouda (Chelsea).

OUTLOOK– Offensive struggles in recent friendlies have the alarm bells going off in France, but this team has too much talent not to score (yes, I know, that’s what they said in 2002). How well France does will depend on whether Patrick Viera can shake off a thigh injury that almost kept him out of the tournament. If the French can beat Romania in the opening match, then look for them to do what it takes to advance to the quarters, where it will be up to the attack to carry them.



PLAYERS TO WATCH– Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, Edwin van Der Sar.

NAME TO LEARNKlaas Jan Huntelaar. Let’s face it, you’ve heard of most of the Dutch team’s stars. Huntelaar hasn’t gained quite the same fame yet because he still plays in Holland but the Ajax striker is quality and could emerge as a major threat if given the chance.


Goalkeepers: Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Henk Timmer (Feyenoord).

Defenders: Wilfred Bouma (Aston Villa), Tim de Cler (Feyenoord), John Heitinga (Ajax), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Mario Melchiot (Wigan Athletic), Andre Ooijer (Blackburn Rovers), Khalid Boulahrouz (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Orlando Engelaar (FC Twente), Nigel de Jong (Hamburg), Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg), Demy de Zeeuw (AZ Alkmaar).

Forwards: Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid), Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Arjen Robben (Real Madrid), Jan Vennegoor (Celtic).

OUTLOOK– Too many question marks around this team. First, who is the team’s ball-winning central midfielder? Who brings bite to the middle of the field? Also, is the back-line strong enough to cope with the lack of a destroyer in front of them? Marco Van Basten has his work cut out because stopping players like Pirlo and Ribery won’t be easy with no strong defensive midfield presence. I see this as the weakness that leaves the Dutch out of the quarterfinals.



PLAYERS TO WATCH– Adrian Mutu, Christian Chivu, Nicolae Dica, Ciprian Marica

NAME TO LEARNBanel Nicolita. The speedy right winger should provide support for Mutu and Marica, and could burn the Group C teams that get too extended in the attack. He’s 23 and could play himself int a move away from Steaua Bucharest.


Goalkeepers: 1-Bogdan Lobont (Dinamo Bucharest), 23-Eduard Stanciou (CFR Cluj), 12-Marius Popa (Poli Stiinta Timisoara)

Defenders: 2-Cosmin Contra (Getafe), 15-Dorin Goian (Steaua Bucharest), 14-Sorin Ghionea (Steaua Bucharest), 4-Gabriel Tamas (Auxerre), 17-Cosmin Moti (Dinamo Bucharest), 13-Cristian Sapunaru (Rapid Bucharest), 3-Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk), 22-Stefan Radu (Lazio);

Midfielders: 5-Cristian Chivu (Inter Milan), 6-Mirel Radoi (Steaua Bucharest), 7-Florentin Petre (CSKA Sofia), 8-Paul Codrea (AC Siena), 20-Nicolae Dica (Steaua Bucharest), 16-Banel Nicolita (Steaua Bucharest), 19-Adrian Cristea (Dinamo Bucharest), 11-Razvan Cocis (Lokomotiv Moscow);

Forwards: 10-Adrian Mutu (Fiorentina), 9-Ciprian Marica (VfB Stuttgart), 21-Daniel Niculae (AJ Auxerre), 18-Marius Niculae (Inverness Caledonian Thistle).

OUTLOOK– It’s easy to forget Romania but I would bet good money that they don’t wind up last in this loaded group. I think they fall short of qualifying unless they knock off France in the opener, but I do see the Romanians posting at least one win


  1. Guys, REALLY, I said they are a good team…they’re winners. I’m agreeing with that. And I like Materazzi…he’s a real SOB and that’s what I meant by a ‘good presence’.

    I still hope Italy fails to advance….but I doubt it. 🙂


  2. What a group. The drama to come. I hope the Netherlands & Romania give the rest of the us a biggest surprise. Good luck France.

  3. Pirlo not in a World XI? That’s debatable. And De Rossi is a world-class box-to-box midfielder. Antonio Cassano is far more talented than anyone on the French team, though that talent isn’t always allowed to shine because he is in fact a nutjob. But he was also shone in Euro 2004. This could be even more of a breakout tournament. Alberto Aquilani is also one to watch, and it’s a pity Riccardo Montolivo can’t have his coming out party at the Euro either.

    The Italian team is so deep that it’s not even funny. When Cannavaro went injured, we were still able to call up one of the best defenders in Serie A who couldn’t even get a look initially.

    I honestly don’t buy Italy not making it out of this group.

    P.S. Luca Toni does seem to fizzle when it comes to the national team… but so does Fernando Torres. And Cristiano Ronaldo. Besides, how can you say definitively that he won’t have a good tournament? Antonio di Natale links up perfectly with him.

    P.P.S. Where Mig’s post loses any credibility whatsoever is in pinpointing Materazzi as “a good presence”. Umm, NO.

  4. Mig- but this is not an individual game.. this is a team sport, and in that matter Italy does extremely well

    they have a solid defensive unit that plays as a group….

    their midfield does well to control

    their forwards find a way to finish (and speaking a lil bias, but DP finds a way quite beautifully)…

    Italy is not an individual team… they break the opposing team down and follow suit with QUICK counters… i forgot who they friendlied this past weekend, but Italy looked SOLID… DP coming in at half sparked a goal immediately…. it’ll be tough to put goals past Italy… but not impossible obviously:D

  5. wow ives have u heard of de jong and Bronckhorst as defensive mids. What the dutch should worry about is the backline.

  6. What a fascinating group, and I’m a bit sad to say it’s the only one that really captures my imagination.

    I love that the 3 big guns are also capable of huge flame-outs, and the 4th a hot Romanian side with nothing to lose and a striker (Mutu) who could lead this group in goals.

    I’m trying to talk myself into France, with the speed of Nasri/Ribery on the wings, all the class and experience in CM’s, and Benzema’s first major tourney. But they could also go goalless!

    Any 2 could advance, but I think Holland is most likely to bomb. I’ll also walk into the gambler’s trap of trying to make the clever pick, and say that Romania rides a hot Mutu into Round 2.





    (But with Toni and Del Piero both hot, how can you not like Italy…)

  7. To clarify, I think that their team is certainly deep but I don’t find any, excepting Buffon, that would be in a World XI…or World 22 for that matter. Luca Toni finds a way to disappoint when playing for country. Pirlo, THIS YEAR, seemed to give away more balls than he completed passes. Materazzi is a good presence. I love Gattuso and as a holding midfielder, he rates highly. Cassano is a head case (yes, a very talented one), DeRossi is a thug with limited skills and suspect discipline (12 yellows).

    They win, though. I did not say that they weren’t a good team…I said their roster (and should have qualified it with “as individuals”) doesn’t impress me.


  8. Mig- “The Italians just don’t have a lineup that impresses me…of course I said the same thing at the last World Cup. They just find a way to win.”


    are you serious?? their roster is loaded

    “they just find a way to win”??? isnt that what ALL GOOD TEAMS do??

  9. Italy takes this easily with France taking second place in the group. Not too high on Netherlands or Romania. Romania may be a surprise here.

  10. France? How long has it been since they scored a goal in the run of play?

    Don’t get me wrong, the French team is ENORMOUSLY talented, but it’s also quite young. This tournament just isn’t for them. World Cup 2010 would be a different matter entirely.

  11. Interesting comments so far. But, um, dead wrong about Les Bleus. France advances, especially after a win on Monday, which gets them off to a fast start.

    No worries about Benzema, and Gomis is the real deal. Look for him to get at least one impact goal as a sub during group play.

  12. Mig — Pirlo. De Rossi. Gattuso. Luca Toni. Antonio Cassano (should have been one of the best players in the world but threw it away because of immaturity… a true game-changer). Gigi Buffon. Del Piero.

    I suppose the Romanian lineup is more impressive, huh? And like I’ve said, the Dutch lineup is absolutely toothless with the absence of Van Bommel. I agree with you about France.

  13. Antonio Cassano will win it for Italy, provided he doesn’t get red carded 5 minutes into a match. I’m not too worried about the defense because Barzagli, Chiellini, Gamberini, and Materazzi (for country anyway) are solid, solid defenders. The Italian midfield will have to pick up a little defensive slack, but they should be fine otherwise.

    I like Benzema, but I remember from the France-Spain match that his finishing is off and France have a lot of offensive woes coming into the tournament. IMO they don’t have what it takes to make it out this year because they are a team in transition. Or full of Capricorns 😉

    Romania will steal points off of the unlucky team that underestimates them. I think that Romania will win the match versus France but then they’ll be shut out by cautious Italy and Holland (who have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to Romania).

    Holland… I’ve always thought of them as kind of toothless despite the great attacking talent that they have. Defense is also one of the worst in the tournament. But with the exception of Italy (who they always seem to lose to), I think they can muster wins versus France and Romania.

    So this is how I think the standings will be at the end of the group stage:

    1. Italy

    2. Holland

    3. Romania

    4. France

  14. The Italians just don’t have a lineup that impresses me…of course I said the same thing at the last World Cup. They just find a way to win.

    The only team I would count out of this group is France…they really have a tepid attack these days.

    I would jump for joy if Romania and Netherlands advanced…just to change things up.

  15. I think Italy and France come out this group in that order, they just have too much quality, but if there is going to be a shock, I’m betting on Romania. They are a group of underrated no-names (at least from our perspectives) who are going to surprise alot of people with their ability. And I’m not just saying that because I married a smoking-hot Romanian chick myself 🙂

  16. anyone know if any of the spanish language networks in the new york area are showing any matches? they showed the world cup in 06…

  17. Hope someone elbows Italy in the face and they don’t make it out of the first round.

    I was just watching SkySports on TV during my lunch break and the English press are making a huge meal about how “quiet” everything is leading up to the Euro 2008 tournament without the “English fans”. And they are interviewing all these people asking if they are upset that the English fans aren’t there. Just hilarious.

  18. This is why Euro could arguably called a better tournament than the World Cup (although I don’t think so).


Leave a Comment