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Czechs rally to down ten-man Netherlands

In a thrilling match in Aveiro the Czech Republic clawed back a two-goal deficit to leave the Netherlands, who had been reduced to ten men, on the brink of early elimination.

Vladimír Šmicer (2nd R) celebrates with Tomáš Rosický and Pavel Nedvěd after scoring the Czech Republic's winner
Vladimír Šmicer (2nd R) celebrates with Tomáš Rosický and Pavel Nedvěd after scoring the Czech Republic's winner ©Getty Images

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic
(Bouma 4, Van Nistelrooy 19; Koller 23, Baroš 71, Šmicer 88)
Group match
Aveiro, 19 June 2004

In one of the most exciting encounters in the competition's history, the Czech Republic came from 2-0 down to clinch victory with two minutes remaining, Vladimír Šmicer hitting the winner after John Heitinga had been sent off for the Netherlands.

Dick Advocaat's side were in control after Wilfred Bouma and Ruud van Nistelrooy had put them two goals to the good inside 20 minutes. Yet in an open match Jan Koller replied swiftly and after Milan Baroš's 73rd-minute equaliser and Heitinga's dismissal the stage was set for Šmicer to apply the coup de grace.

The match was an open affair from the start and Koller might have scored as early as the first minute, volleying Tomáš Rosický's clever chip over the bar. Moments later Marek Jankulovski broke through only to misfire from 15 metres, so it was against the run play that the Netherlands took a fourth-minute lead, Bouma nodding in Arjen Robben's free-kick.

Clarence Seedorf twice went close to doubling the lead, grazing the outside of the post from a free-kick, but the pressure told on 19 minutes when Van Nistelrooy pounced on Robben's low cross to make it 2-0.

Just as the match was assuming a distinctly orange hue Baroš intercepted Phillip Cocu's square pass, raced into the Dutch area and teed up Koller to finish. Yet the first half ended with the Czechs on the back foot, as rasping drives by Seedorf and Heitinga flew fractionally over and Edgar Davids struck the woodwork.

Robben spread panic throughout, but the winger was substituted early in the second period. Meanwhile Marek Heinz, scorer of the winner against Latvia, came on to set up a chance for Šmicer, who was denied by the flying Edwin van der Saar. The goalkeeper had no chance, however, when Koller chested down Pavel Nedvěd's cross and Baroš blasted in the equaliser.

At the other end Petr Čech saved with his legs from Andy van der Meyde but 15 minutes from time Heitinga received a second caution for a second foul on Nedvěd. Ten-man Oranje were relieved when Nedvěd rattled the bar from 20 metres but it was only postponing their fate; sealed by Šmicer's close-range strike.

What happened next?
The Netherlands had to win their final group match against Latvia and hope the Czech Republic would do them a favour in their final group match against Germany. The Oranje beat Latvia 2-1 and, true to form, Karel Brückner's charges came from a goal down to knock out Germany.

The Oranje squeezed past Sweden on penalties before losing in the semi-finals to hosts Portugal, who would also knock them out of the FIFA World Cup two years later. The Czechs also reached the last four after overcoming Denmark 3-0, but lost 1-0 in extra time to eventual winners Greece.