The Netherlands reached the semifinals of the European Championship, defeating Sweden, 5-4, on penalty kicks Saturday and avoiding the fate that has claimed a host of soccer powers.
The quarterfinal was tied 0-0 after regulation and overtime. It was the first time in five attempts the Dutch won a penalty-kick shootout at a major championship.
"At last we were able to do it -- fantastic," said Arjen Robben, who made the clinching kick. "We showed character, fought and always remained positive."
The Netherlands will face host Portugal on Wednesday. The other semifinal will be played Thursday between Greece and the winner of Sunday's game between the Czech Republic and Denmark.
Five of Europe's strongest teams have been eliminated: defending champion France, Spain, Italy, England and Germany. The final is scheduled for July 4 in Lisbon.
The Dutch were in the semifinals four years ago at home. Sweden was trying to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1992, when it was the tournament host.
"I think we had a very good game, playing on this level equal with the Dutch team," Sweden Coach Lars Lagerback said. "It was a really good match and it could have gone either way."
Olof Mellberg failed to convert the decisive penalty kick for Sweden, his shot saved by goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar. Robben then won it for the Dutch.
"I didn't think, I put my brains in neutral and told myself 'I will make it,' " Robben said.
Robben came close to scoring in the third minute of overtime. His low shot was fumbled by Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson onto the post, and Roy Makaay was unable to get to the rebound.
In the 16th minute, Isaksson made an acrobatic one-handed save on Clarence Seedorf's free kick from 20 yards. At the other end, Henrik Larsson hit the crossbar, and Fredrik Ljungberg's hard shot bounced off the post of Van Der Sar's goal.
"I don't know if you call it good luck or back luck or a bad day," Lagerback said. "It doesn't matter for me."
In other Euro 2004 news:
* England's Wayne Rooney will need about two months to recover from a broken right foot and probably will miss the start of the season for Everton in the Premier League. The 18-year-old forward scored four goals in the tournament.
* Swiss referee Urs Meier defended his decision to disallow England's goal in the 90th minute of its quarterfinal loss to Portugal, saying it followed an "obvious" foul on the goalkeeper. Meier said he has received 16,000 e-mails -- some threatening -- after an English newspaper published his Internet address.
* Greece's upset of France prompted thousands of flag-waving fans to gather in Athens's Omonia Square minutes after the game. Fireworks lit the sky over the Acropolis and other monuments. "Europe is too small for Greece," wrote the Ethnos newspaper. "Gods," read a front-page headline in Adesmeftos Typos.