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BBC's Alan Green
"The Dutch miserably failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage"
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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK
Italy through on penalties
Toldo saves
Francesco Toldo was Italy's hero in the shoot-out
Italy 0-0 Holland (AET)
Italy win 3-1 on penalties
(Amsterdam. Attendance: 50,000)

Italy muscled their way into the final of Euro 2000 on penalties after a sterile semi-final in Amsterdam.

Having already missed two spot kicks in normal time, the Dutch then missed three more in the shootout as Dino Zoff's Italians stole a place against France in Sunday's final.

The Dutch, playing against 10 men for over an hour following Gianluca Zambrotta's first half red card, failed to kill off an Italian side who simply suffocated the hosts into submission.

Those tactics made for the rare spectacle of a tiresome game in a dazzling tournament, but Holland only had themselves to blame for not putting the tie out of its misery.

Italy's ploy to make life tough for the Dutch had earlier backfired horribly as Dino Zoff's side were reduced to 10 men after only 33 minutes, a series of ugly and clumsy tackles resulting in a second booking for Gianluca Zambrotta.


But for all their guile and constant pressing, Holland were unable to break their rivals down, despite a string of first-half chances.

Dutch openings had seemed likely to come at a premium as striker Patrick Kluivert was forced to fight a lone battle up front against a three-pronged Italian central defensive unit.

But Dennis Bergkamp, sitting just behind Patrick Kluivert, had already sent a free header wide and seen a low shot thud against a post before the Italians were reduced to 10 men.

Zambrotta sent off
Gianluca Zambrotta receives his marching orders for a second booking in the first half

Yellow cards in the opening 15 minutes for Gianluca Zambrotta and Mark Iuliano left two of their three key defensive players treading a tightrope as the Dutch stretched Dino Zoff's side in the opening exchanges.

It was only a matter of time before Italy lost their footing - and Zambrotta was the man to fall.

The red card simply prompted Italy to batten down the hatches even more firmly, but still Holland could not find a way through.

Five minutes before half-time, Frank De Boer was presented with the ideal opportunity to end the stalemate from the spot when Alessandro Nesta was ruled to have tugged Kluivert's shirt, but Toldo produced an outstanding save down to his left.

Toldo celebrates
Toldo celebrates his penalty save from Frank De Boer

Dutch heads dropped and it took Frank Rijkaard's side some time to re-establish their stranglehold after the break.

Once again however, they were handed a golden opportunity to break the Italian resistance, courtesy of a second penalty.

This time, there was no doubting referee Markus Merk's decision as Iuliano scythed down Edgar Davids as he spun past him just inside the penalty area.

De Boer, not wanting the ignominy of a second miss, passed the responsibility to Kluivert. But, with the chance of moving clear in the race for the golden boot as the tournament's top scorer, Kluivert saw his low strike smack against the left-hand post as Toldo dived the other way.

Di Biaggio and Overmars
Luigi Di Biagio battles with Marc Overmars of Holland

Italy continued to squeeze the life out of the game, though they did at least begin to look threatening on the counter-attack, particularly after the introduction of substitute Francesco Totti.

And they so nearly snatched a dramatic victory in the third minute of injury time as another substitute, Marco Delvecchio, raced clear of De Boer but shot straight at the previously untested Edwin van der Sar.

A goal at that stage would have been a travesty, though even the fact the game was entering a golden goal period seemed hard to swallow.

Delvecchio had the first chance in the sudden death extra period, sprinting clear again on the break and sending in a low shot that van der Sar pushed round the post with an outstretched leg.

Kluivert then created an opening for himself with a sharp turn of pace to take him between two defenders, but his left foot shot dragged agonisingly wide of the far post.

Substitute Clarence Seedorf saw a shot fly just as narrowly wide of the far post following an exchange of passes with Peter Van Vossen and Kluivert was wide of the mark again with a flicked header from Van Bronckhorst's cross as the first penalty shoot-out of the competition became inevitable.

Italy: Toldo, Cannavaro, Iuliano, Nesta, Zambrotta, Fiore (Totti 82), Di Biagio, Albertini (Pessotto 78), Maldini, Del Piero, Inzaghi (Delvecchio 67).

Holland: van der Sar, Bosvelt, Stam, F. de Boer, Zenden (van Vossen 77), Overmars, Davids, van Bronckhorst, Cocu (Winter 95), Bergkamp (Seedorf 86), Kluivert.

Referee: M Merk (Germany).

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Holland
Dutch party turns sour
29 Jun 00 | Photo Gallery
Holland v Italy in pictures
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