Miracles do occur: Dutch Lion roars at Euro 2004
24 June 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Dutch national soccer team qualified for the Euro 2004 quarter-finals on Wednesday night after defeating Latvia 3-0, and thanks to Germany failing in its quest to topple group winners the Czech Republic.
24 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch national soccer team qualified for the Euro 2004 quarter-finals on Wednesday night after defeating Latvia 3-0, and thanks to Germany failing in its quest to topple group winners the Czech Republic.
The Netherlands finished second in group D with four points from three matches after its victory in Braga on Wednesday and the Dutch Lion will now take on Sweden in the Portuguese city Faro on Saturday.
It has been a roller coaster ride for the Dutch team after it drew 1-1 with the Germany its opening Euro 2004 match on 15 June, losing then 2-3 to the Czech Republic last Saturday.
The Dutch fate had been left largely in the hands of the Czechs, who fielded their "B team" against the Germans on Wednesday, having already qualified for the finals after their thrilling win against the Dutch last weekend.
The Netherlands needed to win against Latvia to have any chance of progressing and did that in convincing fashion. Ruud van Nistelrooij scored two goals, one from a penalty, in the first half (27th and 35th minute) and Roy Makaay scored a third in the 84th minute.
But with the score still at 0-0, attention was diverted to the match in Lisbon, where Germany had taken a 1-0 lead courtesy of star forward Michael Ballack. The Czechs soon equalised though with a tremendous free kick by Marek Heinz which hammered into the top right-hand corner of the net.
And as the Germans threw everything at the Czechs in the last half, narrowly missing scoring on a couple of occasions, it was the Czechs who eventually scored in the 76 minute as Milan Baros beat the German keeper on his second attempt and the Czechs held on for the win.
It is the second time in a row that the Germans — who have been crowned European champions three times in the past — have been eliminated from the European Championship after the group matches.
Meanwhile, back in the Estadio Municipal in Braga, the tension could have been cut with a knife as emotions surged and fell and rose again.
When the Czech Republic scored the 1-1 equaliser an explosion of cheers was heard from the estimated 20,000 Dutch fans previously contemplating an early trip home for their national soccer squad.
As the Dutch took a 2-0 lead, the stadium was again awash with Orange glory and when it was confirmed that the Czechs had taken a 2-1 lead against the Germans in the second half, the miracle that the Netherlands had been hoping for started to sink in.
"We have worked so hard here. We are going through!" Van Nistelrooij said later. "We may be thankful that the Czechs did their duty. It is a fantastic day. Everything went well: you win 3-0, the Czech Republic wins, simply fantastic. It was a great party with all the people here."
Dutch coach Dick Advocaat made two changes as expected from the team that lost to the Czechs, bringing in Michael Reiziger at right-back to replace the suspended John Heitinga, while Frank De Boer replaced the injured Wilfred Bouma to gain his 111th cap at international level.
As the Netherlands celebrated, Advocaat congratulated his players, but also said that he had tried to keep everything business-like. "But that was not easy. The relief afterwards was very big. The players reacted to the public very positively," he said.
Advocaat also responded to the criticism that had been levelled at him in recent days, asserting that it went too far. "I learned norms and standards at home. But if there is talk of stoning and hangings, I don't think that is normal anymore. You can almost not work in such an atmosphere," he said.
Prior to the start of Wednesday's night match, public broadcast ratings agency Dienst Kijk- en Luisteronderzoek predicted that about 10 million Dutch fans would watch the match live on Nederland 2. Approximately the same number watched the first two Euro 2004 matches as well.
Meanwhile, German newspapers were filled with news about the failure of its national team to make the Euro 2004 finals. While they congratulated the Dutch, they were also mercilessly critical of their own national squad. One newspaper, Bild, even said the Netherlands was laughing at Germany.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news