Dutch coach Van Basten revels in stunning win

June 10, 2008

BERNE, June 9 (Reuters) - Netherlands coach Marco van Basten outwitted his friend and former team mate Roberto Donadoni to give the Dutch a dream start to Euro 2008.

Van Basten, who played alongside Donadoni in the great AC Milan side of the late 1980s and early 90s, sprang a few surprises as he secured a 3-0 win over the world champions in their opening Group C game on Monday.

'We had never beaten the Italians with a result like this and now in a competitive match we have beaten the world champions, scored three goals and played good football,' Van Basten told reporters.

'We dominated them on more than one front on the pitch and should be proud of that.'

Ruud van Nistelrooy, looking clearly offside, opened the scoring after 26 minutes and five minutes later Wesley Sneijder doubled the lead after a perfectly executed counter-attack.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst sealed victory 11 minutes from time by heading home a perfect cross from Dirk Kuyt.

Van Basten was delighted but, with World Cup runners-up France drawing 0-0 with Romania earlier on Monday, he was still cautious.

'This was only one match and we have two more to go,' he said. 'Our next opponents France are physically strong and they really have to go for it after their draw against Romania.'

Van Basten, who said on Sunday he often meets Donadoni on holiday and that they also play golf together, made four changes to the side widely tipped to the chosen by Dutch media.

The inclusion of forward Kuyt was unexpected but logical with Arjen Robben out for a week due to a groin injury.

But the changes made in defence were the most surprising with injured Mario Melchiot replaced at right back by Khalid Boulahrouz, and Andre Ooijer in the centre next to Joris Mathijsen with John Heitinga unexpectedly left on the bench.

'Mario was not completely fit and against (Antonio) Di Natale, who is fast and skilful, we wanted someone who could defend tight and Boulahrouz could do that,' said Van Basten.

'Andre and Joris (together) gave us more confidence during training while Nigel de Jong starting instead of (Demy) De Zeeuw (in midfield) was based on physical aspects.'

Netherlands were put more on the back foot in the second half as Italy searched for the goal that would bring them back into the match but it never came and Van Basten explained why.

'Even then we kept playing football and made it difficult for Italy,' he said. 'Our last goal was really a compliment to how my team performed today.'