Holland and France on Course for Final Showdown

Published June 26th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Holland and France Sunday stayed on course for a Euro 2000 Final meeting on July 2, both winning their quarter-finals but in vastly contrasting fashions. 

France beat Spain 2-1 but only because star Spanish striker Raul blazed a last-gasp penalty over the bar. Earlier Zinedine Zidane had put the French ahead after 33 minutes only for Gaizka Mendieta to equalize from a penalty five minutes later. 

But a minute before the interval Youri Djorkaeff slammed home what proved to be the winner to keep the world champions on course for the continental crown and a semi-final date with Portugal - a repeat of the classic encounter between the two nations in Euro 1984, won 3-2 in extra-time by France at Marseille. 

Raul, who took the second penalty because Mendieta had been substituted, spurned his glorious chance from the spot after a needless foul by Fabien Barthez on Abelardo and substitute Ismael Urzaiz also missed a sitter in the dying seconds as Spain produced a stirring finale. 

The manner of France's victory could not have been in greater contrast to that of Holland. 

They hammered Yugoslavia 6-1 in Rotterdam's De Kuip Stadium with only an injury time strike from Savo Milosevic sparing the Balkan side from a whitewash and putting the Dutch through to a semi-final with Italy. 

Four goals from Patrick Kluivert and a brace from Marc Overmars had put the Dutch on cruise control although UEFA may take away Kluivert's third goal on Monday morning when they review TV evidence that suggests Yugoslavia Dejan Govedarica got the decisive touch. 

But Sunday night Kluivert topped the goalscoring standings with six Euro 2000 goals, one ahead of Milosevic. 

Yugoslavia had the first real opportunity and Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made a brilliant save from Predrag Mijatovic after good work from Milosevic. 

But then the Holland bandwagon started to roll. First Kluivert worked a superb move with Dennis Bergkamp before lifting the ball over Ivica Krajl. 

Then he scored with a well-taken half-volley after a delightful floated ball from Edgar Davids. 

After the interval Paul Bosvelt crossed and Kluivert wheeled away to claim his third although he did not seem to touch the ball before Govedarica deflected it past Kralj. 

But the 23-year-old Barcelona striker ensured himself of at least a hat-trick - regardless of UEFA's decision Monday - when he scored after a fine run by Boudewijn Zenden. 

It was 4-0 and the Dutch were playing Yugoslavia off the park. 

Next Marc Overmars scored with a ferocious shot that Krajl could only help into the goal and then he grabbed his second and Holland's sixth when Phillip Cocu's shot came back off the woodwork. 

It was fantasy football from the 'Oranje' but then Milosevic came up with his fifth goal of the tournament although Yugoslavia looked too embarrassed to celebrate it. 

Kluivert said himself at the post-match press conference he had only scored three goals, admitting: "I only scored three goals. I am honest." 

UEFA will decide on Monday but for the moment, his four goals stand. 

Holland coach Frank Rijkaard said. "The boys had a wonderful evening and I'm proud of them. Patrick's goals were a team performance. If no one gives you the ball you cannot score. 

"The 11 players gave everything they had. I think the crowd today was our 12th player and that's a wonderful feeling. We can be glad about that,” – (AFP) 

Yugoslavia coach Vujadin Boskov said Holland had an advantage over all the other teams because they were playing at home. "I would like to mention how extraordinary the Dutch supporters were," he said. 

France, meanwhile, had to show true grit in their 2-1 victory over Spain in the Belgian town of Bruges. 

They had survived some anxious moments before taking the lead after 33 minutes. 

Zidane, whose two goals helped the French beat Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 World Cup Final, put them in front with a trademark free kick that gave Santiago Canizares no chance. 

But then Lilian Thuram fouled Pedro Munitis in the French penalty area and Italian referee Pierluigi Collina pointed to the spot. 

Mendieta converted the penalty to square the scores but just a minute before the interval Djorkaeff struck the hammer blow. 

Patrick Vieira produced a surging run and fed the overlapping Djorkaeff who fired a ferocious shot past Canizares at his near post. 

The second half was a less eventful affair although Spanish duo Michel Salgado and Paco were lucky not to be red carded by Collina. 

But suddenly in the dying seconds there was a dramatic turn of events with French goalkeeper Barthez fouling Abelardo. 

Raul spooned his spot-kick over the bar and Urzaiz had time to squander another chance for Spain. 

"It was what we expected," said Lemerre. "There was a lot of suspense. The essential thing is that we are in the semi-final and we are hoping for much more than that." 

Zidane said: "We had the heart to play a great game this evening. It was hard to beat this Spanish team the result proves it. But the French win is deserved." 

Spanish coach Jose Antonio Camacho said: "The French players have that little extra something that makes them world champions. The result is not a fair one for us but we must accept it. 

"Raul took his responsibilities. That proves what a great player he is. But he missed, that's the way it is. 

"I have a bitter taste in my mouth because we had the chance to produce a big performance. But now it is time for a holiday." 

But on this form few would bet against a Holland v France final at Rotterdam on Sunday at Rotterdam. The Dutch beat France 3-2 in a Group D match but that match was something of an anti-climax with Lemerre fielding a second string in a match where both teams had already qualified. 

But a second clash on Sunday would be a different kettle of fish altogether. 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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