Italy 0-0 Denmark

Last updated : 15 June 2004 By Central Bear

If one thing has become apparent since Euro 2004 started on Saturday it is that certain big guns look decidedly shaky. Portugal looked average at best when Greece were turning them over on Saturday, and it took two moments of genius from Zinidine Zidane to rescue a very poor looking France side earn a win over an England.

It was the turn of the Azzure to be average today against Denmark, and the Italians, quoted as 9/2 second favourites to win the competition outright, certainly kept the tradition of poor performances by top guns so far going.

The Danes, on the other hand, were entertaining and, as always, a joy to watch, as they always are in this tournament. Ever since they shocked the footballing world in 1992 by winning this very competition, they have become a must when the finals come along. Their supporters, most of whom sport huge Viking hats and horns, also make this tournament a brighter and better place, and they got their just reward today - and can even consider themselves unlucky not to have witnessed their heroes sneak a famous win.

That the game ended nil-nil should not really be a shock when all things are considered. The Italians are hardly noted for high scoring games and Denmark have not scored in the final stages of this competition since Euro 96 when a certain Brian Laudrup scored against turkey at Old Trafford. Despite these facts, though, we clang on to the hope that the Italians could show that they are here to make an impression in this competition and lift themselves to a performance that has not been witnessed yet from any of the favourites - but it was not to be.

The first real action in the game came in the sixth minute when Jon Dahl Tomasson went down under a rather innocuous challenge from Cannavaro. The Dane quite rightly avoided a booking for simulation, and Denmark only received a corner from the incident. However, he would not be so lucky in the 28th minute when he did receive a booking for diving when, again, it had looked like he had tried to keep his feet. None of us like to see players diving, but the amount of harsh bookings in the tournament so far would indicate that Uefa have hammered home this particular issue too much to their men in black.

There was a flurry of activity in the 12th minute when Francesco Totti hit a thunderous free-kick from thirty yards that the Danish keeper done well to touch wide, then only seconds later the Italians found themselves stretched as the Dane's hit back with a good move down the right flank. Only three minutes later Buffon had to parry a good strong effort from Helveg away from goal as the Dane's upped the tempo and put a little bit of pressure on their more illustrious opponents.

The rest of the first half took a familiar shape, though, as the rest of the games we have witnessed so far, with both teams feeling their way around each other and unwilling to commit too much in attack. That changed at the death of the half when both sides had a few gilt edged chances.

Firstly there was a superb double save from Thomas Sorensen in the Denmark goal to deny Del Piero and then Totti. Both were superb saves and they denied the Italians what would have been an undeserved half-time lead. Then, no sooner had Sorensen dusted himself down after his heroics, his compatriot Gianluigi Buffon was performing his own heroics to stop Martin Jorgensen from opening the scoring. The burst of excitement at the end of the half was the exception, though, and not the rule, and it wasn't too much of a disappointment when the ref blew for half-time.

Italy seemed to lift themselves form their lethargy early in the second-half and put the Danes under some pressure for the first time on the match. Their movement improved and a sense of urgency appeared that had not been there previously. The result was two excellent chances being carved out in a five minute spell. Firstly, Christian Vierri set up Zambrotta with an incisive through ball, only for the defender to skew his effort wide. Then Vierri brought out yet another impressive save from the impressive Sorensen with a header that the Aston Villa man turned over the bar.

But, like the first-half, the second just never really took off and chances were few and far between. Instead, we were treated to midfield tussles and two keepers on top form whenever chances were created. Even the introduction of Rino Gattuso could not drive Italy on greater things - a sign that maybe it was not going to happen at all on the day for the Trapattoni's men - whilst Denmark seemed happy just to keep the Italians at bay, whilst creating the odd chance to nick the points.

The last action of any real note should have brought the goal that we all craved. An impressive run down the flank from Claus Jensen had Italy in panic mode, his cross inside fell to Tomasson who let a vicious left foot drive fly only to see Buffon pull of a save of some note, but he could not clear the danger altogether and the ball fell to the onrushing Rommedahl, but, with the Italian defence on the back-foot, he rushed his ball back into the danger area and the chance was gone.

The result certainly leaves Group C wide open. It was felt that the Italians would be certain winners of this group with any one of the other three - Bulgaria, Sweden and the Danes - taking second place. But on this showing Giovanni Trapattoni does not have his problems to seek and he will know that an increased level of performance is needed to take them through from this group. The only consolation they have is that they are not the first of the so called favourites of this tournament to be in that position.