Holland earned a rousing 3-2 fightback victory over second-string France on Wednesday night meaning they play in their own country for the rest of this Euro 2000 tournament.
Boudewijn Zenden scored the winner, shortly after a blistering freekick goal from skipper Frank de Boer, as the co-hosts came from behind to earn the quarterfinal's meeting against Yugoslavia in Rotterdam on Sunday. Group D runners-up France meet Spain in the Belgian city of Bruges the same day.
France had led at the interval after a David Trezeguet deflection gave them a 2-1 lead. Earlier, Holland's Patrick Kluivert had equalized Christophe Dugarry's opener for the World Cup holders.
Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard said afterwards, "we wanted to win and fought very hard. We did not get it for free and we had to work hard to get the result we wanted."
When asked whether the French B team being technically superior to Holland worried him, Rijkaard added. "No it does not worry me because we know the French always have technically good players.
"They showed a lot of confidence and remember we were playing the world champions tonight. They were dangerous up front when they were in possession.
"We showed we can equal the French and do better when we want to. We lost the ball too much in the first half but we played better in the second and the result was there in the end."
Frank de Boer admitted that the Dutch were delighted to be playing the Yugoslavs instead of Spain in the last eight.
"Without (French star Zinedine) Zidane it was important for us to win the match and the group as we wanted to play Yugoslavia because they have picked up several yellow cards," explained the Barcelona player.
But France coach Roger Lemerre said he was not perturbed at facing Spain instead of Yugoslavia.
"Whether it is Yugoslavia or Spain it is a match we must win and it changes nothing," said Lemerre.
Although both teams were already through to the quarterfinals they both played attacking football from the whistle.
Stand-in French keeper Bernard Lama saved early on from Zenden and Phillip Cocu's downward header from a Dennis Bergkamp cross went just left of the goal.
Then came France's opening goal. Johan Micoud fired over a corner from the right and it was headed home by Dugarry after eight minutes. Just before the quarter-hour was up though, Holland had equalized.
On Bergkamp's second through ball to striker Kluivert, the forward ran into the area, checked to his right and rifled the ball across the face of goal into the corner.
Frank Leboeuf had been caught out of position by Bergkamp's pass.
Bergkamp, having a superb half, twice had shots before another attempt rebounded off the crossbar and Lama was relieved to catch the rebound from Kluivert.
Moments later, Micoud tried an audacious chip from the halfway line which was tipped over the bar by Holland's reserve keeper Sander Westerveld.
Just past the half-hour, France were once more in the lead.
Sylvain Wiltord fired a shot through a crowded goal-mouth and Trezeguet stuck out a leg to get the slightest of deflections, sparking songs of celebration by the away fans.
In time added on in the first period, Dugarry, who had earlier upended Marc Overmars to the right of the box, earned a yellow card for a foul on Artur Numan in the only caution of the half.
Dugarry and Kluivert both had chances before Frank de Boer scored one of the goals of this June 10 to July 2 tournament so far.
Edgar Davids was fouled some 30 meters from goal.
But as the French defense slowly put their wall together the quick-thinking de Boer stepped up to fire home an unstoppable left foot shot a surprised Lama could only palm on to the crossbar and into the net in the 51st minute.
Then came Zenden's winner eight minutes later. Westerveld kicked the ball up-field, it bounced once, and Zenden was on the end of it, firing a low, right-footed shot inside Lama's right hand post.
Again poor defending was partly to blame with Leboeuf unable to get his head to the punt and Christian Karembeu allowing Zenden a free run on goal.
Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard brought off Kluivert, probably to keep him fresh, giving Deportivo La Coruna striker Roy Makaay a taste of the action.
Aron Winter came on for Dennis Bergkamp in the 77th minute, just after Marcel Desailly earned a yellow card, for his 83rd cap to equalize Rudi Krol's Dutch record.
Nicolas Anelka, who has had problems with his right knee, came on for the last 10 minutes or so in place of Wiltord and midfield general Didier Deschamps came on for Patrick Vieira for the last few seconds of the game.
Lemerre said afterwards he was unhappy to concede De Boer's freekick goal. "Our concentration was a question mark to allow this tremendous shot, meaning they equalised at 2-2. But in general our team is doing well at the moment."
Lemerre picked out Dugarry and Vieira as two players who excelled during the match.
It was Holland's first victory over France for 19 years though it was relatively meaningless.
It was a chance for Holland however to gain a psychological boost ahead of what many are predicting will be a France-Holland final on July 2 in Rotterdam.
On that theme, Lemerre added, "I hope that we can meet Holland again and it would be a great honor," - (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)