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EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Netherlands Loses; Latvia Ties Germany

June 20, 2004|From Associated Press

Latvia's stunning 0-0 tie with three-time champion Germany provided an unexpectedly tasty hors d'oeuvre, even if it was a little dry.

The main course between the Czech Republic and the Netherlands was a positive feast.

The Czechs came from two goals down to become the first Euro 2004 quarterfinalist on Saturday, beating the Dutch, 3-2, at Aveiro, Portugal, in one of the most entertaining games in the championship's 44-year history.

Wilfred Bouma and Ruud van Nistelrooy had put the Dutch ahead, 2-0, less than 19 minutes into the Group D game, but Jan Koller replied in the 21st before Milan Baros made it 2-2 with 19 minutes left. Vladimir Smicer scored the winner two minutes from the end.

In the end-to-end game of high quality soccer with both teams playing attacking formations, Edgar Davids of the Netherlands hit the post and Pavel Nedved of the Czech Republic the crossbar while goalkeepers Edwin van der Sar and Petr Cech made world-class saves.

"For us it was a fantastic day, a fantastic game to come back from 2-0 and beat Holland," Nedved said. "We fulfilled the instructions of the coach. Thank God we scored and came back into the game. Now we have to fully concentrate on Germany."

Dutch Coach Dick Advocaat couldn't hide his dismay.

"I'm extremely disappointed how the game went," he said. "We had everything under control and could have decided the game. We should finish off the chances at this level."

Latvia's result at Porto means that Aleksandrs Starkovs' team, which knocked out World Cup semifinalist Turkey in the November playoff to qualify, has tied with the World Cup runner-up for its first ever point.

As soon as the whistle blew, cheers came from homes and bars all over the Latvian capital, Riga.

"How many times have I told people I'm from Latvia, and they asked, 'Where?' Well this is a hello to the world from Latvia," said Rainis Medenis, a 29-year-old technical writer who watched the game at one of many parties all over Riga.

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