Dutch rejoice, France and Italy fret
Netherlands showed their 3-0 defeat of Italy was no fluke when they swept France aside 4-1 to make sure of their place in the quarter-finals at UEFA EURO 2008. With the Italians being held to a 1-1 draw by Romania earlier in the day, the two finalists from Germany 2006 are in serious danger of going out of the tournament. For the Romanians, meanwhile, victory over the Dutch in their final game will see them through.
Italy 1-1 Romania
Goals: Christian Panucci 56, (Italy), Adrian Mutu 54, (Romania)
Romania continue to spring surprises. Lining up against a revamped Italy side, the Eastern Europeans proved solid at the back once more and dangerous on the counter. Had it not been for another flawless performance from Italian No1 Gianluigi Buffon, Victor Piturca's men would have taken a first-half lead. But even Buffon was powerless to prevent Adrian Mutu from opening the scoring at the start of the second half when he intercepted Gianluca Zambrotta's underhit headed back-pass and found the top corner.
The Italians were on level terms just two minutes later when Giorgio Chiellini headed across the face of goal for Christian Panucci to apply the finishing touch. An exciting game reached its crescendo when Buffon denied Mutu from the spot after Panucci had given away a penalty. Italy must now beat France in their final game to have any chance of progressing, while a draw against the Dutch will be enough for the Romanians should the Germany 2006 finalists share the points.
Netherlands 4-1 France
Goals: Dirk Kuyt 10, Robin van Persie 59, Arjen Robben 72, Wesley Sneijder 90 (Netherlands), Thierry Henry 71 (France).
Four days after putting three past Italy, Marco Van Basten's in-form outfit hit four past France to surge into the knockout rounds. Lacking the killer instinct in front of goal, Les Bleus struggled to contain the technically superior Dutch. Dirk Kuyt set the men in orange on the way when he punished some static defending to nod home from a corner.
On the hour, and somewhat against the run of play, second-half substitute Robin Van Persie added a second when he got on the end of Arjen Robben's inch-perfect centre. Thierry Henry gave France renewed hope inside the final quarter by turning home Willy Sagnol's cross. Within a minute, though, Netherlands had restored their two-goal lead, Robben firing home from a tight angle. Deep in injury time Wesley Sneijder rounded off the scoring with a magnificent strike that went in off the crossbar. The handsome win ensured the Oranje will finish top of the group, while France, who suffered the humiliation of their biggest ever European Championship finals defeat - their previous worst being a 2-0 loss to Czechoslovakia in 1960 - must now beat Italy to have any realistic hope of going through.
Pick of the day
Italy have their goalkeeper to thank for keeping their slim qualification chances alive. Not for the first time Gianluigi Buffon pulled off a series of high-class saves, the pick of them a sharp stop to deny former Juventus team-mate Adrian Mutu as he bore down on goal and a flying leap to keep out Gabriel Tamas's piledriver. The decisive moment of the game came when the Romanians were awarded a penalty ten minutes from time, only for Buffon to outwit Mutu with a wonderful clawing save high to his left.
Quote of the day
"We are bitterly disappointed, especially after having given everything. We're still in with a shout, however, and it all comes down to the France game now." Italy coach Roberto Donadoni.
The numbers game
1982 - The last time the French lost by three goals or more. It was on 31 August of that year that Poland romped to a 4-0 win at the Parc des Princes, the goals coming from Jalocha, Kupcewicz, who scored two, and Buncol.
All eyes will be on Group D on Saturday as Spain go head-to-head with Sweden, with top spot the prize for the winners. Having faced each other twice in the qualification group, the two sides know each other inside out. The Swedes won 2-0 in the first of those meetings in October 2006, Spain's last defeat, while Luis Aragones saw his side gain revenge with a comfortable 3-0 win in the return fixture in Madrid.
The showdown in Innsbruck pits together two of the continent's deadliest finishers: David Villa, the scorer of a superb hat-trick against Russia last Tuesday, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored one of the goals of the tournament so far in helping the Scandinavians see off Greece 2-0 in their opening game. Historically, the Iberians just have the edge, winning five of their 12 meetings, drawing four and losing three.
Saturday's game is also the veteran Aragones's 50th in charge of La Selección and his record so far speaks for itself: 34 wins, 11 draws and a mere four defeats.
In the day's second match 1960 champions Russia take on holders Greece, with neither side having any margin for error. Recognising that a draw will do his side little good, Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is set to send out a more attacking line-up. The Russians have a good record against the Greeks, however, defeating them 2-1 at Euro 2004 and winning 12 of the 19 matches between the two over the years, drawing four and losing only three.