Ruud van Nistelrooy's 81st-minute equaliser ensured honours ended even in this clash of Group D heavyweights after a freakish goal by Borussia Dortmund's Torsten Frings had given Germany a first-half lead.
For much of the match it looked as though the Netherlands, not for the first time, had flattered only to deceive their fervent fans. Yet Van Nistelrooy who had had a quiet game, produced an acrobatic hooked finish at the near post from a fine Andy van der Meyde cross to bring them their reward.
The one surprise in either lineup was the selection of Boudewijn Zenden in ahead of Wesley Sneijder, who made such an impression in the Netherlands' last competitive outing against Scotland in the play-offs for this tournament.
This meant a more central role for Sneijder's AFC Ajax club-mate Rafael van der Vaart, playing just behind Van Nistelrooy, to whom the first chance of the match fell after two minutes. Phillip Cocu chipped into the area and the Manchester United FC striker was not quite quick enough to connect with the goal at his mercy.
With Cocu and Edgar Davids prompting from deep the Netherlands were in the ascendancy for much of the first quarter, but chances at either end were at a premium.
A half-hit shot by Christian Wörns from Bernd Schneider's cross, easily gathered by Edwin van der Sar, was the preface to Germany's first serious threat. After Frank Baumann had broken up a Dutch attack, Dietmar Hamann threaded a pass through for Kevin Kuranyi, who shot powerfully and Van der Sar tipped over the bar.
From the corner Wörns' downward header bounced up and over the bar when he might have done better, but Germany did not have long to wait. Cocu picked up the game's second yellow card for a clumsy foul on Philipp Lahm near the left touchline, and Frings' wickedly curling free-kick evaded everyone and bounced in off the far post.
The goal had arrived on the half-hour mark and the sea of orange around the ground fell silent. Van der Vaart nearly roused them four minutes before the break, after good work by Davids and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, but his shot on the turn slipped just past the post.
For the second half Oranje coach Dick Advocaat replaced Zenden and Davids with Marc Overmars and Sneijder, who forced Oliver Kahn into his first save of the match just before the hour mark. Prior to that Michael Ballack had volleyed wide and Kuranyi went close to converting another Schneider cross for Germany, who were now content to play on the break.
Overmars meanwhile embarked on a head-to-head duel with Arne Friedrich, the Hertha BSC Berlin right-back, and from one corner gained, Wilfred Bouma headed over the bar. This signalled the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger, the 19-year-old from FC Bayern München, in place of Schneider.
Within moments the youngster had worked his way into the penalty area and only a deflection off Van Bronckhorst prevented Germany from doubling their lead. Pierre van Hooijdonk's height was then added to the Dutch attack, and Overmars brought the best out of Kahn with a snap-shot before Van Nistelrooy's clever finish levelled the match.