June 26th, 2004 • 11:00 pm
It was not exactly a classic. Once again, the game was marred by multiple ugly fouls by Dutch players, which resulted in an early flurry of yellow cards. (Ironically, de Boer managed to both earn a yellow card and injure himself in an ugly foul on Ljunberg.) Although there were chances on both sides, the Swedes came closer to scoring during regular time and extra-time, with both Larsson and Ljunberg hitting the woodwork at a time where a single goal would have almost guaranteed victory.
Ruud van Nistelrooy was his typical irritating self, immediately trying to force fouls out of the opposition’s defense and going to ground like a bean bag in the penalty area. It was kind of ironic, thus, that Sweden’s Ibrahimovic was the one that was yellow-carded for a dive — although it was indeed a dive and deserved punishment. I don’t know how van Nistelrooy does it, but somehow he always manages to get away with it. He must have attended a drama school in an earlier life or something.
Anyway, the penalty kicks were typically unpredictable and meaningless. Holland is through, but Sweden has nothing to be ashamed of. Neither team is great — and really, at this point, the whole competition has lost much of its relevance, with all the top-seeded teams out and the Czechs being the only team that has consistently impressed so far. I guess we’ll be rooting for the Czech Republic and Portugal in the semi-finals, and the Czechs in the final! (I am assuming the Czechs are going to win tonight here…)