Updated Tuesday August 8, 2000, 9:51 PM GMT
Full-time Report: Italy v Holland
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Italy 0 - 0 HollandItaly win 3-1 on penalties after extra-time
Dutch misery was unbearable, for while they succumbed in the eventual lottery of a shoot-out - with Frank de Boer, Jaap Stam and Paul Bosvelt all failing to score - they had also missed two penalties during the match itself.
And for all but the first 33 minutes, Holland were playing against a depleted Italian side, after defender Gianluca Zambrotta was sent off for his second bookable offence, and Holland dominated possession to an almost embarrassing degree at times.
There will be a certain empathy from the Italians - given that Holland have now lost not only in Amsterdam on penalties tonight, but also to Brazil in the semi-final of the last World Cup as well as to France in the quarter-finals of Euro 96.
It should all have been well over before this semi-final went that far, however.
But the Dutch failed to make their advantage tell, with an incredible two wasted penalties; the first with keeper Francesco Toldo saving Frank de Boer's 38th-minute spot-kick and then Patrick Kluivert striking the second effort against the foot of the post.
For all Holland's patient creativity and attractive passing and movement, Italy produced the complete defensive performance in frustrating their opponents with determination, organisation and no little skill in a fascinating clash of cultures.
So it went to the shoot-out, with Luigi di Biago scoring first before Frank de Boer missed his second penalty of the game - a tame effort straight down the middle.
Gianluca Pessotto nonchalantly scored again for Italy, while Manchester United defender Stam blasted a Chris Waddle-style effort wildly over the bar and Francesco Totti rubbed in the misery with an outrageously cheeky chipped effort over the diving figure of Edwin van der Sar.
Kluivert at least scored this time around and, while Paolo Maldini could have settled it only to see his effort saved, Bosvelt was then denied and suddenly it was all over for Holland.
The stadium went numb apart from the fire-cracking Italian contingent, which went wild in celebration at reaching the final against France.
Few could have imagined such an outcome when Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard carried on the spirit of his side's 6-1 thrashing of Yugoslavia by doing what even Kevin Keegan has never dared to do - pick a side with just two natural defenders.
Italy, who started with Alessandro del Piero instead of Totti, meanwhile went virtually to the other extreme in selecting a back five and sitting back waiting to pounce on the counter-attack.
In reality, though, they simply sat back and relied on a defence which had conceded just two goals in their previous four games. In fact, the Italians seemed to forget all about the counter-attacking element of the plan.
Holland therefore dominated possession in midfield, where Edgar Davids - with Philip Cocu in close support - charged around, and Dennis Bergkamp dropped back into space to direct play.
The Arsenal striker first opened up the Italian defence within three minutes yet Cocu could only lift his chipped pass over the bar.
Bergkamp himself then failed to connect properly with a header before effortlessly drifting inside Mark Iuliano and beating Toldo only for the ball to rebound off the post.
Italy offered nothing in response and while Marc Overmars' pace was troubling Maldini down the right flank, Boudewijn Zenden was similarly causing problems down their left wing.
Zenden was yellow-carded for diving inside the penalty area on 28 minutes but, just five minutes later, wing-back Zambrotta - who is more often accustomed to playing in midfield - committed his second bookable offence on the Dutch winger.
Italy moved to a back four, with del Piero shifting back into a deeper midfield role, and that inevitably left Filippo Inzaghi even more isolated up front as the Azzurri's famed 'catenaccio' was taken to extremes.
Still they managed to hold on, however, even when Kluivert was held back by Alessandro Nesta and a penalty was awarded by German referee Markus Merk.
While Frank de Boer, who had kept his nerve to score from the spot against Czech Republic with just a minute left, struck his penalty cleanly and towards the corner, Toldo's diving save was outstanding.
Holland continued to press, with Maldini superbly crowding out Overmars and Kluivert showing incredible control only to miscue his shot, yet they found Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro in inspired defensive form.
The first Italian shot of the game finally came next a couple of minutes after the break, from Stefano Fiore and that heralded a rare spell of pressure on the Dutch goal.
At last there was an air of purpose about Italy's play, perhaps in the realisation that they could surely not hold on forever, but Holland regrouped as well and came again.
A sudden burst of pace from Davids beat Iuliano and the defender brought his Juventus team-mate down, only just escaping his second yellow card of the game.
Italy still had 10 men but they were facing a second penalty.
This time it was Kluivert who stepped up and he managed to send Toldo the wrong way yet rolled his shot against the foot of the upright and Bergkamp could not capitalise on the rebound.
The Dutch hung their heads in disbelief, the Italians blew kisses of thanks into the sky and, remarkably, the scoreline was still level.
It stayed that way until the end of 90 minutes, despite the adventurous introductions of Totti and Marco Delvecchio, who went past de Boer in injury-time only to shoot at van der Sar, while Clarence Seedorf also tested Toldo just after replacing Bergkamp.
While Holland continued to press with conviction in extra-time, that Italian counter-attack finally came and almost won them the game, although van der Sar did magnificently to deflect Delvecchio's shot wide with his outstretched leg.
Kluivert and Seedorf both flashed shots across the face of goal in the second period of extra-time but penalties loomed almost inevitably and the misery was all Holland's as Italy secured what had seemed so unlikely before the tournament - a place in the final.
The Italians may have been largely written off - especially in their own country before the tournament kicked off - yet coach Dino Zoff knows a thing or two about making a mockery of predictions.
Italy went into the 1982 World Cup from a similar position of adversity - and, captained by Zoff, they emerged as champions.
Italy Team Page
Holland Team Page