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Life goes on after shoot-out sorrow

Penalty shoot-outs are cruel, draining experiences. Adulation is always heaped upon the victorious goalkeeper or the scorer of the decisive spot-kick, but it is easy to overlook the losers - especially the unfortunate player who misses the vital penalty.

For Spain on Saturday afternoon, two men were able share the burden of sorrow: both Fernando Hierro and Miguel Angel Nadal failed to convert their penalties. For Clarence Seedorf later that evening, there was no such consolation. The 20-year-old Dutch midfielder was the only player on either side to miss from the spot in France's 5-4 shoot-out success.

It was a sad end to a difficult tournament for Seedorf, who had become involved in the bitter squabbling that followed the expulsion from the Dutch camp of his former Ajax team-mate, Edgar Davids.

Seedorf's much-publicised disagreements with the coach, Guus Hiddink, must have been a factor in his exclusion from the starting line-up for the quarter-final. After he eventually joined the fray as a substitute, he missed a good close-range chance, when Bernard Lama saved at his feet, and then came the shoot-out. . .

A sobbing Seedorf was consoled by his Sampdoria team-mate, the French midfielder Christian Karembeu, as he trudged off the pitch. "I could not see him at first because of the tears in my eyes," Seedorf said. "It was an act of great sportsmanship. He didn't begin to party until coming to see me. The two of us were left alone on the pitch. It was a gesture that meant so much to me."

Ronald de Boer, the Dutch midfielder, said: "It was difficult to know what to say to Clarence." Maybe, like Stuart Pearce, Seedorf will have a chance, one day, to make amends.

MAN ON

THE SPOT

Clarence Seedorf

(Netherlands)

EURO 96

RIP-OFFS

No 13: Hot dogs (with a few scraps of onion) at Wembley Stadium: pounds 3.20.

Have you come across any monster rip-offs? If so, fax details to Euro- spy on 0171-293 2894.

Sacchi puts the blame on club demands

Arrigo Sacchi, the coach of the Italian squad which made an embarrassing early exit from Euro 96 last week, has placed the blame for his team's poor form firmly on the demands of club football.

The Italian coach was castigated for his decision to keep the five-strong Juventus contingent mainly on the sidelines - the goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi apart - while Alessandro Del Piero failed to live up to his big reputation. However, Sacchi has hit back, saying: "It was clear to see that the Juventus players were tired, both mentally and psychologically, after playing in the European Cup final. That includes Del Piero. I thought he was going to be a very important player for us in England, but it was obvious that he wasn't right."

Indians stick to watching the footy

When the Indian cricketer Saurav Ganguly reached his century in the Test match against England on Saturday afternoon, television viewers back home in India were oblivious to the fact. Like, it seems, most of England, they were watching the Euro 96 quarter-final from Wembley.

Ganguly, who made 131 on his Test debut, was at the wicket when Lord's erupted as news of England's penalty shoot-out win against Spain came through.

"I played a lot of football when I was younger and I knew exactly what was going on," Ganguly said. Hopefully he can take a video of his big day home to Calcutta with him, so that he can show everyone what they missed.

FOOTBALL: THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

"Je suis Blanc, donc je peux."

Laurent Blanc scored the decisive penalty in his side's 5-4 shoot-out win over the Netherlands in Saturday's quarter-final.

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