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By ESPN Staff

Italy lambasted by media after loss to Dutch

MILAN, June 10 (Reuters) - Italian media lambasted the world champions on Tuesday for a woeful performance in their 3-0 defeat by the Dutch in their Euro 2008 Group C opener.

'Ouch. What a blow!' read the banner headline on the front page of Gazzetta dello Sport, the widely read national sports daily. 'Holland gives us a lesson.'

In the first clash of the heavyweights on Monday, the Netherlands consigned Italy to their worst loss at a European Championship.

'The Dutch deserve it...(because they played) as if they were the world champions and not us,' wrote one Gazzetta columnist.

'It is the beginning that already feels like the end,' he continued. 'We have to beat Romania and then France to stay the course. But who still believes it after a fall like that?'

Like many others, La Repubblica newspaper criticised the team's lineup and the holes in the defence. It also said the team were indecisive, letting Netherlands take the initiative.

One of its columnists joked about the meaning behind the perpetually sad look on coach Roberto Donadoni's face. 'Maybe it is because he sees things ahead of time.'

Another major daily, Corriere della Sera, said the team had to learn to be more humble.

'It is not right to think that being world champions gives us some sort of special immunity, like it would not be right to think that everything is over now,' one of its columnists said.

'We can argue about the match in so many ways, deceive ourselves into thinking we were unlucky, but one thing is clear: we were never a team. We have been lucky ... and a bit cocky.

'Holland did not have much more. But they were humble and they were a team.'

In the Netherlands Dutch fans and commentators revelled in their triumph.

'What a dream game! What heroes! With the whole of Europe watching, the Dutch team beat world champions Italy in style,' wrote top circulation De Telegraaf under the headline 'Bellissimo Orange!!'

The Volkskrant daily agreed: 'The Dutch team opened the 'Group of Death' with a fantastic performance. For once, all superlatives are allowed: masterful, magnificent.'

Almost seven million people in this football-crazy nation of 16 million watched the game and shouts could be heard across the Dutch capital Amsterdam each time the side scored.

Cheering fans clad in the national colour orange poured out of bars and on to the streets to celebrate after the match.

'The Netherlands is decisively back on the international stage,' the Algemeen Dagblad daily wrote. 'That's how you win the European title ... A hungry and harmonious Dutch side made the reigning world champions really sit up and take note.'

Even the sober Het Financieele Dagblad could not resist putting the game on the front page: 'Stylish start', it wrote.

Like most other newspapers, the business daily had a picture of opening scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy on its cover.

The striker looked clearly offside when he struck in the 26th minute but Dutch newspapers declared the goal valid as Italy defender Christian Panucci was deemed to still be 'active' despite not being on the field at the time.

'The referee Peter Frojdfeldt took an excellent decision,' Dutch referee Roelof Luinge told De Telegraaf.

Despite differences with Netherlands coach Marco van Basten and criticism of his tactics ahead of the game, former Dutch great Johan Cruyff praised the team.

'Of course, I am proud of such a result against the world champions,' he told Dutch television and added he was glad the side was not getting too carried away ahead of their clash with France on Friday in the tough Group C.

'If you compare it with the 2006 World Cup, the players have made great progress. They don't get so worked up. The public can celebrate but the players stay cool. They still have two games and it is good that they understand that.'

Van Basten helped the Dutch win the competition 20 years ago.

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