After a goal in the first minute of each half, the first quarter-final from Kerkrade's Parkstad Limburg Stadium required an absolute marathon penalty shootout to separate the sides. Up against an inspired, physical and talented Nigeria, the hosts - so smashing in their previous matches - simply could not find a way home as they bow out of the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005 at the last eight.
"This was our toughest game yet," an overjoyed Samson Siasia said after the match. "The Dutch are a great team and it is like a dream to be in the semi-finals of a world championship."
The hosts were hit with an impossibly early sucker punch before the capacity crowd even had a chance to settle into their seats. Roaring up the right from the kick-off, Solomon Okoronkwo crossed low for Promise Isaac who rounded the keeper. Dutch captain Hedwiges Maduro slid in to tackle away, but could only knock the ball off the post where John Owoeri turned up like fine dust to poke into the open goal and hand Holland their first deficit at these finals with only seconds gone (1:0. 1').
Before the match Nigeria boss Samson Siasia had pleaded for more production from his strikers. "If our forwards start scoring, the Dutch will have a long day," he told FIFA.com. In this light, Owoeri's finish seemed an ominous sign for the hot hosts.
Urby Emanuelson fired a shot in retaliation three minutes later. But after a slight bobble, Ambruse Vanvekin grabbed it at the second attempt. As the Dutch were looking harried and nervous, the Nigerians oozed confidence as the half wore on. Isaacs's snapshot from 18 yards had Kenneth Vermeer praying it went over with 12 minutes gone.
With the Nigerians owning the edge on pressure and power, Holland's panache seemed to be fraying around the edges. Maduro - so cool and collected in the previous matches - was having a horrid time controlling a high-pressure midfield. Ghanaian-influenced Quincy Owusu Abeyie was getting no joy out of the Nigerians either. Familiar enough with tricky tactics and flicked manoeuvres, the Nigerians shielded him from the danger areas with ease.
Kruys comes close
Slipping his marker for once, though, the Arsenal man forced a goalmouth scramble that Rick Kruys came inches from turning into a goal in the 17th minute. Seconds later another fierce drive from Emanuelson had Vanzekin - trained by a Dutch goalkeeper coach - on his toes to push it out.
Ron Vlaar's foraging run upfield lent credence to the smooth centre-back's early days as a striker and his shot from 20 yards had the keeper diving low for the right post.
The hosts, in truth, should have gone in two goals down, as Isaac slotted through a delicate diagonal ball for Hertha's Berlin's Okoronkwo on the doorstep. But Vermeer was equal to the task as the hulking striker kicked himself for wasting an odds-on goal.
Dutch heads were up in no time flat after the break, however, as Owusu Abeyie's pinpoint cross from the right picked out Vlaar, who glanced his header inside the far post (1:1, 46'). With the biggest roar in the pre-match squad announcement, the AZ Alkmaar back, who was recently called into Marco van Basten's senior side, surely did his popularity with fans no harm.
The stadium was made to hold its breath when, in minute 68, Olubayo Adefemi's slow roller nearly bobbled off of Vlaar and past a wrong-footed Vermeer. With Maduro still struggling and Dutch defenders beginning to argue amongst themselves, things were looking far from peachy for the hosts.
Piling on the pressure, it seemed only a matter of time before Nigeria took the lead. But unable to supply the killer blow, a late Dutch frenzy nearly saw Vlaar and substitute Gianni Zuiverloon supply the winner.
The match had more to offer, though, as these finals saw their third bout of extra-time. Owoeri went closest for Nigeria and Tim Vincken for the hosts, but the second penalty shootout of these finals beckoned.
Few at the Kerkrade ground will ever forget this marathon set of spot kicks. After a symmetrical and impressive back and forth, substitute Collins John - taker of the first penalty - had to come out again after even the keepers had been forced to take kicks. After scoring with a cheeky chip, Nigeria's Vanzekin pulled off the save of a lifetime, setting the table for match winner against Ukraine, Taye Taiwo, to slam the winner for the Africans in a 10-9.
"I've never seen anything like that shoot-out," Dutch boss Foppe de Haan said after the game. "We played very well overall, but had trouble creating scoring chances. In the end it hurt us and cost us the game."