The Netherlands were eliminated on penalties for the fourth time in five major tournaments as Italy advanced to a UEFA EURO 2000 final against France.
Frank de Boer and Patrick Kluivert had already missed spot kicks in normal time as the Oranje failed to break down an Azzurri team reduced to ten men after the 34th-minute dismissal of Gianluca Zambrotta.
Italy scored the first three penalties in the shoot-out through Luigi Di Biagio, Gianluca Pessotto and Francesco Totti, while De Boer and Jaap Stam both missed for the Netherlands. Kluivert scored and Paolo Maldini missed to restore Oranje hopes, but man of the match Francesco Toldo saved Paul Bosvelt's kick to confirm Italy as 3-1 winners.
Dino Zoff made two changes to the formula that provided quarter-final victory against Romania, with Di Biagio replacing the injured Antonio Conte and Totti making way for Alessandro Del Piero. Injury also forced counterpart Frank Rijkaard to make one switch, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst replacing Artur Numan at left-back.
The Netherlands served notice of their attacking threat as early as the third minute when Dennis Bergkamp's lob put Phillip Cocu through on goal, but he could only prod over. Bergkamp struck the post after letting fly from the right. It was looking good for the Oranje, even better when Zambrotta received a second yellow card and then, four minutes later, a final place seemed theirs for the taking when Alessandro Nesta held back Kluivert. Toldo dived to his left to divert De Boer's penalty behind, however – a sign of things to come.
Despite their numerical inferiority, Italy adopted a bolder approach as Stefano Fiore and Del Piero both had sighters at goal and the Netherlands were finding it hard to impose their rhythm. They could not fail to make use of the space afforded them, though, and another fine passing move concluded with Edgar Davids going down under Iuliano's challenge.
Kluivert hit the post from the resulting penalty and despite constant pressure, hopeful efforts from Van Bronckhorst, Marc Overmars and substitute Clarence Seedorf were all they could muster as the tie drifted into extra time. They were almost hit by a golden goal sucker punch, and it needed sharp reactions from Van Der Sar to deny Marco Delvecchio with his feet.
By then Aron Winter had entered the fray for a Dutch record 84th cap – this would not be a momentous day for the Netherlands, though.