Three-time champion Germany was eliminated from the European Championship in Portugal, losing its final first-round game to the Czech Republic, 2-1, last night as the Netherlands advanced by beating Latvia, 3-0.
Germany, which would have moved on to the quarterfinals with a victory, was eliminated in the first round for the second straight European Championship.
"It's a huge disappointment," Germany Coach Rudi Voeller said. "Two years ago, we were so happy to be World Cup runner-ups. Now we are out, that's bitter."
Ruud van Nistelrooy scored twice for the Netherlands, tying England's Wayne Rooney for the tournament lead with four goals.
The Czechs (3-0) won Group D with nine points, followed by the Netherlands (1-1-1) with four, Germany (0-1-2) with two and Latvia (0-2-1) with one. Four years ago, the Germans finished last in their group.
The Germans went ahead on Michael Ballack's goal in the 21st minute, but Marek Heinz tied the score nine minutes later with a bending, left-footed free kick that curled around a defensive wall and beat goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
The Czechs went ahead in the 77th minute when Milan Baros scored off a rebound after Kahn saved his initial shot. Bernd Schneider and Ballack missed good chances in the second half for Germany, and Tomas Hubschman headed away a shot by Germany's Lukas Podolski at the goal line.
Already assured of winning the group, the Czechs started nine backups, resting stars Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky and Jan Koller.
In the other game, van Nistelrooy converted a penalty kick in the 27th minute after Vitalijs Astafjevs was called for a foul on Edgar Davids in the penalty area, then scored on a header eight minutes later. Roy Makaay added a goal in the 84th minute for the Netherlands, the 1988 champion.
In the first quarterfinal, England will play Portugal today.
-- From News Services