The Netherlands responded to recent criticism in style as they reached the UEFA EURO 2000 quarter-finals with a performance of character that leaves Denmark's aspirations in tatters.
Public support for the tournament co-hosts was low after their last-gasp win against the Czech Republic five days ago, but they delighted the full house in Rotterdam with a much-improved display. All their goals came after half-time with Patrick Kluivert scoring the all-important opener just before the hour, pouncing on the loose ball when Dennis Bergkamp's shot bounced off the onrushing Peter Schmeichel.
Nine minutes later substitute Ronald de Boer doubled the lead, sweeping in Boudewijn Zenden's cross from close range. Schmeichel kept Denmark in contention with saves from Zenden and Kluivert, but he had no answer when the former capped a great run by Michael Reiziger 13 minutes from time. To compound Denmark's misery Michael Schjønberg then missed from the penalty spot after Edwin van der Sar had brought down Ebbe Sand.
It took the Netherlands through with a game to spare, leaving Denmark with only the consolation of third place to play for when they meet the Czech Republic in their final outing. They began well enough, and Morten Bisgaard fashioned an early chance after cutting in from the right as his shot at the second attempt struck the grounded Allan Nielsen and bounced up into the arms of a grateful Van der Sar.
It was just the start Denmark needed following their 3-0 defeat by France; the same could not be said of the Netherlands, apparently daunted, not inspired, by the sea of orange surrounding them. They improved, and almost scored the breakthrough on the half-hour. Zenden's cross found its way via Overmars to Kluivert, whose first-time shot was spilled by Schmeichel; Overmars' effort from the rebound curled just past the post.
Schmeichel made amends with a typically brave save, diving at the feet of Edgar Davids after Bergkamp had carved open the Denmark defence. Then, on the stroke of half-time, a delicate chip from Thomas Gravesen – preferred in the starting XI to Stig Tøfting – came back off the crossbar with Van der Sar beaten. It was all eerily familiar of the Czech game for the Netherlands, when their opponents twice hit the woodwork. Here, though, the Oranje were a renewed force after the restart.