Stout defence, tactical acumen and a fair slice of luck earned France a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory against the Netherlands and a place in the semi-finals.
While Aimé Jacquet's men were brimming with confidence having topped Group B and extended their unbeaten run to 26 matches, the Dutch were still coming to terms with their 4-1 defeat by England only four days earlier. Les Bleus, though, remained reliant on a superb back line which seldom looked likely to be breached during 120 minutes of goalless action. Penalties were required and it was France who held their nerve, Clarence Seedorf the man whose saved spot kick proved decisive.
With the stakes so high and the two defences so wily, it was little surprise that such a cautious opening unfolded at Anfield. Indeed the only two clear-cut openings of the first half were shared by either side, Ronald de Boer heading wide from a Dutch corner and Christian Karembeu shooting recklessly over the bar for the French.
Both coaches sent for the cavalry around the hour mark, Seedorf and Christophe Dugarry the players brought into the action, but it was not until extra time was in sight that the match finally sparked into life. Phillip Cocu went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock on 84 minutes but his deflected free-kick spun narrowly wide after brushing a post. There was still time for an even better opportunity, though, Seedorf kept out by Bernard Lama's splendid stop having been sent clean through by Youri Mulder.
France looked the more committed to grabbing the golden goal but could find no way past the indomitable Edwin van der Sar until it came to spot kicks. Each team had scored three apiece by the time Seedorf was denied by Lama, with Vincent Guérin making no such mistake to leave France on the brink. Laurent Blanc stumbled as he struck his shot but it was accurate enough and France were through.
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