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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Dutch fire blanks in shoot-out
Italy and Holland. Two nations with a history of losing penalty shoot-outs.
One thing was for certain - one of them had to win.
The Dutch converted one penalty out of six in the game, a sorry statistic - including Jaap Stam's miserable miss, which will possibly go down as one of the worst spot-kicks ever.
The expectation of a whole nation is obviously too much to burden for some players. The seemingly simple task of scoring from 12 yards out with only the keeper to beat takes on an entirely new dimension after 120 minutes.
This was particularly true of Antonin Panenka, who had the responsibility of taking the crucial penalty against West Germany in the European Championship final in 1976.
Panenka promptly ran up and chipped the ball audaciously over Sepp Meier, leaving the German keeper stunned as the Czechs won the tournament.
Panenka's ingenuity probably persuaded Francesco Totti to do the same 24 years later against Holland in Amsterdam. It was his audacious penalty which ultimately sent the Italians through to the final against France.
Dutch keeper Edwin Van Der Sar, like Meier, committed himself early, giving the impression of utter helplessness as the ball floated its way into the net. It was almost arrogant in its simplicity.
Remarkably, the Germans can claim never to have missed a penalty in a shoot-out since 1976 - when Uli Hoeness missed in that final against Czechoslovakia.
Mind you, England are the sole victims of Germany's victories in penalty shoot-outs - the notorious 1990 and 1996 semi-finals ended with Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle and Gareth Southgate missing crucial penalties, leaving Germany to go on to win the World Cup and Euro 96.
The Dutch, in comparison, suffered their third consecutive loss in a shoot-out in four years in a major competition - a record which will haunt them for another two years at least.
To see the final of a major championship decided upon a virtual lottery is something which many supporters see as an injustice.
But for others the shoot-out has a certain attraction.
To the neutral, penalties can offer a certain sense of schandenfaude - taking pleasure from someone else's pain - and no three nations can appreciate that more than the English, Dutch and Italians.
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