After a dramatic penalty shoot-out, the Netherlands advanced to a UEFA EURO 2004 semi-final against Portugal following 120 minutes of goalless stalemate in the Algarve.
A desperately tight, fiercely contested encounter saw both teams foiled by the woodwork before misses from Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimović and Olof Mellberg proved decisive in the shoot-out. Arjen Robben nervelessly converted the winning spot kick.
Sweden made two midfield changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Denmark to qualify for the last eight, Anders Svensson and Tobias Linderoth replacing Kim Kallström and Anders Andersson, while Alexander Östlund came in for the suspended Erik Edman in defence. The Netherlands fielded the same XI that booked a quarter-final place with a 3-0 success against Latvia.
Amid a vibrant atmosphere, both teams took time to settle and the early play was littered with free-kicks. The Oranje began to take the initiative, however, and Robben had the game's first chance after ten minutes, cutting inside before producing a fierce left-foot drive that was pushed aside by Andreas Isaksson.
Clarence Seedorf's free-kick forced the Sweden goalkeeper into action again as his side were pushed on to the back foot, and Ruud van Nistelrooy had a shot blocked with the Netherlands looking to take advantage of their greater enterprise. Sweden finally began to relieve the pressure, Henrik Larsson curling a long-range free-kick wide, but the game, while interestingly poised, had yet to really catch fire as the half-hour approached.
Michael Reiziger flashed a drive past the post when the Netherlands came forward again, though, before Isaksson fisted a rasping Phillip Cocu drive away for a corner at the other end. Frank de Boer was hurt in that tackle and limped off to be replaced by Wilfred Bouma on 36 minutes. The substitute, who came on despite a persistent Achilles problem, was quickly into the fray, blocking Svensson's goalbound effort. The Sweden No8 then tested Edwin van der Sar from 20 metres.
The Dutch forced the early second-half pace, the dangerous Van Nistelrooy troubling Sweden's defence by heading Robben's cross just over the bar and flicking another effort fractionally too high. Until now, Larsson and Ibrahimović had been largely subdued, but the heralded strike force came desperately close to breaking the deadlock after 56 minutes. Larsson headed across goal, Jaap Stam failed to clear and Ibrahimović poked the ball goalwards; Cocu cleared off the line.
The game was coming to the boil, Van der Sar saving a fierce cross-shot from Mattias Jonson as Sweden enjoyed a promising spell around the hour mark. Back came the Netherlands, Van Nistelrooy seeing an effort blocked by Isaksson – the ball rebounding off the striker but rolling centimetres wide. Svensson then tested Van der Sar from outside the area as the tempo increased.
The injured Jonson was replaced by Christian Wilhelmsson after 64 minutes and Stam ventured forward for the next Dutch effort, hammering a long-range effort past the post. The minutes ticked down to extra time, although Fredrik Ljungberg shot agonisingly wide and the Netherlands were unable to capitalise on a spell of late pressure, Van Nistelrooy heading too high.
The Oranje almost struck two minutes into extra time. Isaksson fumbled Robben's long-range strike on to the post, and substitute Roy Makaay failed to take advantage of the rebound from close range. The goalkeeper then atoned with two wonderful saves from Seedorf.
Larsson shaved the crossbar at the other end and soon afterwards, Ljungberg hit the post for Sweden in an enthralling climax. It took the drama of a penalty shoot-out to separate the sides.