Donadoni's job on line but he expects to pass French test

"Where is victory?" the Italian national anthem asks at one point. The Azzurri cannot buy one at present – not that anyone involved in Italian football would ever consider doing such a thing, of course – but as France cannot either, the group of you-know-what is even more intriguing than expected going into Tuesday's final round.

After two superb games on Friday, Holland have qualified and could well find it to their advantage to lose against Romania, who would then go through with them, eliminating the two World Cup finalists. So there will be a sense of desperation about the latter pair's meeting in Zurich, as they know that even the most resounding of wins could be in vain.

On Friday's evidence, Italy look to be in the better shape. Two not particularly popular coaches, confronted with the necessity of thinking again after poor opening performances, revamped the formation and personnel of their teams for the second games, and the Italians made the more significant improvement. Bringing in Alessandro Del Piero, Simone Perrotta and Daniele De Rossi to the midfield offered much better support to the powerful Luca Toni, whose aerial performance should be giving the French central defensive pair, William Gallas and Lilian Thuram, sleepless nights. Toni had a perfectly good goal disallowed just before half-time when a Romanian defenderdid not move out quickly enough, although the decision that annoyed Italy's coach, Roberto Donadoni, more was the penaltyawarded against Christian Panucci for manhandling Daniel Niculae with 10 minutes to play.

Only Gianluigi Buffon's brilliant save when initially diving the wrong way to Adrian Mutu's kick kept the world champions in the competition and, it might be said, kept Donadoni in a job. "We played well," he insisted with some justification. "We suffered in certain moments because Romania are a team to be reckoned with. But we created more chances." The statisticians did not agree, calculating 10 Italian attempts to Romania's 16, one of which struck the post. With Buffon's top saves – at least three of them – needing to match Bogdan Lobont's best work in the opposing goal, the neutral view was that a draw was a fair result, albeit one that serves the Romanians much the better.

Donadoni says of Tuesday's encounter with the French: "It is a key game, and the beginning of that game is going to be reallyimportant. We have to prepare properly and we will be able to use that adrenalin that has been built up.

"It is going to be decisive for our future, we know that. Obviously the players are disap-pointed, because they have not reaped as much as they have sown. Disappointment is natural,but it will be short-lived."

France, dropping both strikers and switching to a 4-2-3-1 system in support of Thierry Henry, may have improved on their feeble performance in the goalless draw with Romania yet still suffered their worst defeat in 50 years at a final tournament when falling 4-1 against Holland, the team of the competition so far. As the French coach, Raymond Domenech, admitted, the weakness for once was the defence, in which Thuram at 36 may have gone one competition too far. He and Gallas were constantly exposed by Dutch pace on the counterattack, with the sometimes infuriating Arjen Robben outstanding this time. "It will be tough against Italy," Domenech said. "It will be our own final. We have to use it to show what we can do and hope the other result goes our way."

That means a win for the Dutch, and although Marco van Basten is making all the right noises about playing to win ("We have an obligation to play well"), the inevitable temptation is to rest first-choice players. Those coming in will be out to impress, but Romania showed resilience in their first game and quality in their second.

A draw between France and Italy would put the Romanians through to play the winners of the Spain-Sweden group as long as they do not lose heavily. The French and Italians are a point behind them with a weak goal-difference of 1-4, though unlike Turkey and the Czech Republic today, there are no circumstances in which their fate could again be settled by a penalty shoot-out.

So where is victory? Without one, either of the World Cup finalists, and possibly both, will be flying home on Wednesday.

Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor