Let's get this out of the way off the top:
Rule 11.11 - DEFENDER LEGALLY OFF THE FIELD OF PLAYItaly can scream all it wants. Based on the rules, Holland's Ruud van Nistelrooy was onside. The first Dutch goal was legitimate and any argument that today's 3-0 thrashing of the Italians would have been any different is rendered moot.
A defender who leaves the field during the course of play and does not immediately return must still be considered in determining where the second to last defender is for the purpose of judging which attackers are in an offside position. Such a defender is considered to be on the touch line or goal line closest to his off-field position. A defender who leaves the field with the referee's permission (and who thus requires the referee's permission to return) is not included in determining offside position.
The truth is Italy was out played from start to finish and was full marks for the win. Italy looked disorganized, light years away from the form it showed just two years ago in winning the World Cup. When you couple Holland's big win with the earlier 0-0 draw between France and Romania, the Dutch have to be ecstatic. They have seized control of the Group of Death.
Confusing also were the French who looked disinterested and confused against organized Romania. A punter watching the opening day would be forgiven for laying a fiver on the two favourites being the ones sent home after the group stage. Romania is going to continue to play a tight game, it will be up to their opponents to break them down. And suddenly old Italy doesn't look like it has it in them.
It takes an upset to get any tournament going and the Dutch have provided us with just that today. Now, things get interesting.
Unlike yesterday where Croatia backed into a win against weak Austria and the Germans did what Germans do against Poland. Form held. There is little to suggest that the trend won't continue moving forward in the least interest group of Euro 2008.
Which is unlike the menu tomorrow, where the enigma Spain takes the pitch. You'd be hard pressed to find a expert this side of Saskatchewan who isn't desperate to tell you that Spain is their darkhorse pick to stand amidst the confetti in three week's time. Of course those same experts have been suggesting it's Spain year for a decade and a half now.
Russia is just the type of team that tends to make the experts eat their words when it comes to Spain.
The other game? Oh, that just involves the defending champions who continue to go about there business with little fanfare or favour--kind of like in Portugal. Sweden will provide the opposition.
This tournament moves fast. After tomorrow everyone will have played once. Teams will start to be eliminated Wednesday. Don't blink and whatever you do don't turn away.