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Netherlands floored as Šmicer completes Czech comeback in EURO 2004 Group D

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic
The Czechs came back from 2-0 down to qualify for the quarter-finals in dramatic fashion in Aveiro.

Vladimír Šmicer (right) celebrates with Tomáš Rosický and Pavel Nedvěd after scoring the winner
Vladimír Šmicer (right) celebrates with Tomáš Rosický and Pavel Nedvěd after scoring the winner ©Getty Images

In one of the most exciting encounters in UEFA European Championship 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.

EURO 2004: All you need to know

The game 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.

Best goals of EURO 2004
Best goals of EURO 2004

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.

EURO 2004: Team of the Tournament


The Czechs line up ahead of the Netherlands game
The Czechs line up ahead of the Netherlands gameBob Thomas Sports Photography vi

Netherlands: Van der Sar; Van Bronckhorst, Bouma, Stam, Heitinga; Davids, Seedorf (Van der Vaart 86), Cocu (c); Robben (Bosvelt 58), Van Nistelrooy, Van der Meyde (Reiziger 79)
Substitutes: Westerveld, Waterreus, Kluivert, Makaay, Sneijder, Frank de Boer, Overmars, Van Hooijdonk, Zenden
Coach: Dick Advocaat

Czech Republic: Čech; Jankulovski, Ujfaluši, Jiránek, Grygera (Šmícer 25); Nedvĕd (c), Galásek (Heinz 62), Rosický, Poborský; Baroš, Koller (Rozenhal 75)
Substitutes: Blažek, Kinský, Mareš, Lokvenc, Vachoušek, Hübschman, Týce, Plašil
Coach: Karel Brückner

Referee: Manuel Mejuto González (Spain)

Man of the Match: Pavel Nedvěd (Czech Republic)