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Holland overcame their penalty shoot out phobia to defeat Sweden and reach the semi-finals of Euro 2004. The teams had battled each other to a standstill over the course of 120 absorbing minutes, but neither side could apply the finishing touch and the game remained deadlocked at 0-0.

Arjen Robben was the hero of the hour, slotting home his sudden death penalty after Edwin van der Saar had saved from Olof Mellberg. Earlier, Cocu had missed for Holland and Ibrahimovich blazed over for Sweden.

From the kick-off this was a tight, cagey but competitive encounter, with both teams showing plenty of effort and endeavour.

Robben, the game’s most incisive player, had the best chance of the opening period, cutting in from the left before crashing in a fierce left foot shot which Isaksson did well to parry.

Cocu also drew a save from the Swedish keeper, but despite several promising runs from Robben, Holland were restricted to long range efforts in the first half.

Little was seen of Sweden as an attacking force although Svensson came close with a header.

Holland continued to force the pace after the interval. Robben remained a handful down both flanks and he created a wonderful opportunity for Van Nistelrooy but the Manchester United striker headed over. Shortly afterwards, Van Nistelrooy produced a clever back heel which just cleared the bar.

At the other end, Ibrahimovic squandered a golden opportunity after Stam had missed the ball while trying to clear. Perhaps, caught unaware, the rangy striker poked his shot wide from just five yards.

Holland enjoyed a late flurry of pressure, forcing a series of corners and free-kicks in the closing minutes of normal time but Sweden, defending in numbers, held firm.

The onset of extra time seemed to have a liberating effect on the players and both teams were to fluff several chances to win the game. Larsson hit the bar from close range and Ljungberg struck the post from the edge of the area.

At the other end, Van Nistelrooy had the ball in the back of the net but his effort was ruled out for offside. Robben also went close when his powerful shot was fumbled by Isaksson, but the ball rebounded onto the post.

At full time, honours were even. Holland had enjoyed more of the play but Sweden’s incursions tended to be more incisive.

Holland, who have never won a penalty shoot out, showed few signs of nerves and indeed the first miss came from Ibrahimovich, who skied his effort Beckham-style. Cocu was also to miss to ensure that the players would suffer the agony of sudden death.

Mellberg, who had performed admirably throughout, was the one to miss, leaving Robben the opportunity to cap a fine individual display, by hammering in the final spot kick and sparking wild celebrations among the Dutch supporters.

b>Quarter final

Holland 0-0 Sweden

Holland win 5-4 on penalties

Halftime: 0-0

Teams:

Holland: 1-Edwin van der Sar; 2-Michael Reiziger, 15-Frank de Boer (4-Wilfred Bouma 35), 3-Jaap Stam, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 20-Clarence Seedorf, 8-Edgar Davids (18-Johnny Heitinga 61), 6-Philip Cocu; 7-Andy van der Meyde (12-Roy Makaay 87), 10-Ruud van Nistelrooy, 19-Arjen Robben

Sweden: 1-Andreas Isaksson; 7-Mikael Nilsson, 15-Andreas Jakobsson, 3-Olof Mellberg, 14-Alexander Ostlund; 18-Mattias Jonson (21-Christian Wilhelmsson 64), 8-Anders Svensson (16-Kim Kallstrom 81), 6-Tobias Linderoth, 9-Fredrik Ljungberg; 10-Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 11-Henrik Larsson

Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)

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