Bloody hell… France again? Are you serious? One thing’s for sure, it is going to be an exciting tournament next summer.
I’ll update this post later with the reactions from Donadoni & Co.
Scroll down for post-draw reactions by Italian coach Roberto Donadoni and Netherlands coach Marco Van Basten.
Update 9:07am ET:
While we wait for the Azzurri commentaries, here’s something you might find interesting, the MATCH SCHEDULE for Group C.
The full schedule can be found on the UEFA.com site here (PDF file).
In other words, tough tournament opener against Holland, but we’re saving the best for last.
In an ideal scenario, the Azzurri would get 6 points from the first 2 matches and then face France with a guaranteed ticket to the Quarter-Finals. Ideal scenario.
Update 10:30am ET:
POST-DRAW REACTIONS by Roberto Donadoni
Donadoni expected this… he had imagined it. In the Italian coach’s mind (ours as well, mind you), the possibility of the “Group of Death” slowly materialized as the teams were being drawn in Lucerne. The Don’s Azzurri and the Oranje of Marco Van Basten will face off in Euro 2008, but it will be a cordial match between the two managers, two friends that go way back to the AC Milan golden years. Van Basten and Donadoni were all smiles during the press conference following the draw, and the Dutch coach even cracked a few jokes in Italian, forgetting for a moment that the questions had been asked in English or Dutch.
Unlike Raymond Domenech, Mr. “Nice guy”. The French coach had time to make a short comment on the difficulty of the group (four words, FOUR), before a journalist asked him his expectations for an Italy-France rematch without Zidane, but with Materazzi on the field. At which point Domenech tagged the question as “stupid”, got up and left, grumbling something along the lines “these guys really piss me off”. He was followed out the room by the French PR representative, quite visibly upset at the French coach’s attitude. A class act, that guy Domenech…
So, was Domenech scared? The French media say “pretentious”, but one that was undoubtedly scared after the draw was Romanian coach Victor Piturca, who must have thought something along the lines “Dear God oh Lord, where did my team end up”. No matter, Roberto Donadoni cut the commentaries on Domenech’s behaviour short: “It isn’t my place to judge the behaviour of Domenech, I don’t know the way he deals with his emotions. I’ll just say that it will entirely depend be up to us to avoid Italy-France prematch periods full of controversy and bad blood. We will have to walk the walk, not only talk the talk“.
The Don appared to be very relaxed, and not at all worried. At least that’s the impression he gave. “I am leaving Lucerne with a serene mind” said the coach. “There are many bigger problems to get worried about in life. It will be up to us to make certain matches easier to play. I’ll be honest though, we hoped to be slightly more fortunate, but we’ll take the group we’ve been give. I had the feeling we were going to get a tough group, and this will our opportunity to face another hard challenge with a serene mind“.
Regarding facing off with France once again, Donadoni commented: “It doesn’t provoke any particular emotions in me to be honest, past matches with France now belong to the past and don’t count“. Wow… he’s really down-to-Earth the Don, huh?
Update 11:30am ET:
POST-DRAW REACTIONS by Marco Van Basten
“A really hard group: Netherlands, Italy, France and Romania” was the first question asked to the Dutch national team coach. ”Yeah, what more do you want?” answered Van Basten smiling. “It will be fun. (…) Playing the first match against Italy will be special, it’s always something special to be playing against the Azzurri. In footballing terms, I myself have “grown up” in the Serie A. I know Italy well, they have always had great players, a great football history with many World Cup and European titles, so it will be a difficult challenge. Donadoni? It’s always hard to beat him.”
When asked if he would like one day to manage an Italian team, Van Basten said: “I think we need to take it one step at a time. We have a tournament to play next Summer, so my priorities are preparing the match *against* Italy, then we can think about other things“.
The Dutch manager also talked about the Italy-Netherlands friendly match in program for the month of February: “I don’t know what to say about that one at this time. On the one hand it would be strange to have our two teams face off so close to the tournament, but on the other hand playing against Italy is always great for the show. We’ll see what we decide later on.”
Finally, when a journalist mentioned the video replays shown during the draw ceremony, of Van Basten’s famous goal against Russia in 1984, the Dutch coach blurted out: “Pretty nice huh?” . Then he added: “It is true there haven’t been many goals scored like that since then, but I hope my team can get to work on it and score a few. I will set up some special training sessions for that” Van Basten joked.