Italy and Denmark produced an entertaining goalless draw in their opening Group C encounter in Guimaraes.

Denmark began the game well playing with pace and purpose and clearly not overawed by either the occasion or the prospect of playing one of the favourites to win the competition. In contrast, Italy seemed listless, with the much-hyped Totti, struggling to impose himself on the game.

The first incident of note came on 7 minutes when Tomasson went down under a challenge from Cannavaro, but the referee waved away calls for a penalty. The Danish striker was involved in a similar incident later in the half but was booked for his troubles.

On 13 minutes, Italy brought the first save of the day from Sorensen when a sweetly struck free-kick from Totti was parried away for a corner.

Denmark immediately countered on the break, but with players available in the six-yard box, Jensen’s final ball from the byline was weak.

Another chance fell Denmark’s way on 17 minutes when Helveg powered down the right before cutting inside and unleashing a swerving shot which Buffon punched away.

Thereafter, Italy began to gain a toehold in the game, without entirely subduing the spirited Danes, who in the opening half hour, seemed quicker to the ball and more committed in the tackle.

Italy’s best chance of the half came on the stroke of half time when Sorensen made a fantastic double save from first del Piero and then from the rebound, the Aston Villa keeper parried away Totti’s follow-up.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Jorgensen had a free shot but his effort was well-saved by Buffon.

After the break, Italy looked much livelier with Totti in particular becoming more of an influence.

53 minutes, Totti almost created the opener, when his clever pass dissected two defenders in the penalty area to reach Zambrotta, but the full back screwed his shot across the face of the goal.

Vieri came close on 56 but his header was acrobatically tipped over by the impressive Sorensen.

However, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men were unable to build on their promising start to the second period and the veteran coach was forced to make changes as he sought to break the deadlock. The disappointing Del Piero replaced by Cassano and Stefano Fiore coming on for Camoneresi.

In warm, sticky conditions, Denmark began to wilt and whereas in the first half they were able to maintain a frantic pace throughout, after the break, the sweltering conditions dictated they play in bursts.

Nonetheless, Morten Olsen’s team still produced the best chance of the half on 75 minutes. Substitute Jensen cut in from the left and set up Tomasson whose effort was well saved by the alert Buffon. The rebound fell to Rommedahl but his mishit shot was scrambled away.

By the end of the game both teams seemed content with the point. For the unfancied Danes, the encounter confirmed that they are a threat to anyone. For Italy, who entertain hopes of winning Euro 2004, the jury is still out.

Group C

Italy 0-0 Denmark

Halftime: 0-0
Attendance: 30,000


Italy: 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 2-Christian Panucci, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 13-Alessandro Nesta, 19-Gianluca Zambrotta; 4-Cristiano Zanetti (8-Gennaro Gattuso 57), 20-Simone Perrotta; 16-Mauro Camoranesi (14-Stefano Fiore 68), 10-Francesco Totti, 7-Alessandro Del Piero (18-Antonio Cassano 64); 9-Christian Vieri.

Denmark: 1-Thomas Sorensen; 6-Thomas Helveg, 4-Martin Laursen, 3-Rene Henriksen, 5-Niclas Jensen; 17-Christian Poulsen (18-Brian Priske 76), 15-Daniel Jensen; 19-Dennis Rommedahl, 9-Jon Dahl Tomasson, 10-Martin Joergensen (20-Kenneth Perez 72); 11-Ebbe Sand (14-Claus Jensen 69).

Referee: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)