| Denmark’s Jon Dahl Tomasson vies for the ball with Gianluca Zambrotta of Italy at the Henriques Stadium in Guimaraes on Monday. (AFP)
Guimares: Denmark’s European Championship goal-drought continued in a 0-0 draw against a disappointing Italy side on Monday but they emerged with credit from their group C opener.
The Danes had the best of the possession and the chances in the first half against a nervy Italian side with Thomas Helveg twice going close. The Italians, who will now be under pressure in their second game against Sweden on Friday, were brighter after the break but could not find a way past ’keeper Thomas Sorensen.
The result means Denmark have now played four European Championship finals matches without scoring after their poor showing in Euro 2000.
Although Italy had the first chance when Francesco Totti’s powerful 25-metre free-kick was tipped away by Sorensen, it was the Danes who took the initiative, pushing forward on the flanks and getting early control of the central midfield areas.
Italy ’keeper Gianluigi Buffon was pressed into action in the 16th minute, pushing over a left-footed drive from Helveg who had opened up space by cutting in from the right. Denmark striker Jon Dahl Tomasson was making himself a nuisance for the Italian defence and, although he was booked in the 29th minute for diving, he went close with a flashing header four minutes later and then set up Helveg who fired just wide.
The best chances for both sides came right on the stroke of half-time with Sorensen making a great double save to foil Alessandro Del Piero and then Totti, both from close range.
At the other end the Danes could have gone in with a lead they probably deserved when Martin Joergensen’s low shot forced a good save out of Buffon after good work from the lively Dennis Rommedahl down the right.
Gianluca Zambrotta, pushing forward with more urgency, found Christian Vieri with a well delivered cross and Sorensen did well to push the striker’s firm header over the bar. Moments later Christian Panucci wasted a chance when, unattended by the Danish defence, he headed wide from a Totti corner.
Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni brought on Gennaro Gattuso for Cristiano Zanetti in midfield and Antonio Cassano for the disappointing Del Piero as he looked to break the deadlock.
But Denmark almost caught them on the break when the pacey Rommedahl burst forward and was only stopped by a body check from Fabio Cannavaro which resulted in a deserved yellow card for the Italy captain.
The Danes went close to a winner in the 75th minute when Buffon did well to block a Tomasson shot and Rommedahl was unable to make the most of the rebound.
Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni conceded his side had struggled against the Danes. “Finally the harsh reality of Euro 2004 has sunk in,” Trapattoni told Italian television. “We didn’t really read the game well at all in the first half. Things improved in the second but we missed our chances.
“We were too static, especially in the latter stages of the match when we started to fall off physically.”
Denmark: Thomas Sorensen; Thomas Helveg, Martin Laursen, Rene Henriksen, Niclas Jensen; Christian Poulsen (Brian Priske 76), Daniel Jensen; Dennis Rommedahl, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Martin Joergensen (Kenneth Perez 72); Ebbe Sand (Claus Jensen 69).
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Christian Panucci, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta; Cristiano Zanetti (Gennaro Gattuso 57), Simone Perrotta; Mauro Camoranesi (Stefano Fiore 68), Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero (Antonio Cassano 64); Christian Vieri.
Referee: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain). (Reuters)