Jos Lansink, last to go for the Dutch team, again showed marvellous composure as he jumped his second clear round on Egano and made sure of Olympic victory which the Netherlands now add to their European title won last year.
Austria's Thomas Fruhmann on Genius and Peter Eriksson on Moritz, achieved the only other double clears.
British hopes had soared and then plummeted during Nick Skelton's initial round on Dollar Girl. First to go for the team, the mare cleared 13 of the 14 fences with spot-on accuracy, only to be eliminated for three refusals at the last. It was the first time that she has ever been known to stop.
Dollar Girl was by no means the only horse to be disconcerted by the water under the 14th fence. The dark shadow that fell across it in the early morning gave the impression of a deep well which descended into the bowels of the earth, but it proved far less troublesome when the sun had risen higher.
All was not immediately lost for the British team whose Tim Grubb incurred 8.75 faults on Denizen before Michael Whitaker had a single error on Monsanta and his brother, John, was clear on Milton. At half- way Britain were lying a close equal fifth and Ronnie Massarella, the team manager, insisted that gold medals were still within reach.
But, in the end, the team that had looked so powerful finished without medals of any colour. Though Dollar Girl cleared the 14th fence in her second round with Skelton, she lowered two earlier rails. Denizen also had two down, Monsanta repeated his single error at the first part of the treble, and Milton made his only mistake of the day when dropping a fore foot into water.
Spain, so enthusiastically supported from the crowded stands, finished fourth, with Switzerland and the United States equal fifth. Britain's seventh place was one lower than in Seoul, despite confident predictions of a vast improvement with Milton on the team.
The Whitaker brothers and Grubb should gain a place in Sunday's individual final, barring any serious mishaps during Friday's second qualifier, but Skelton's participation is now doubtful.
Ludger Beerbaum, the only German to go clear initially, should make the final, despite having the worst luck of all when his bridle broke in the second round. He had to leap off Classic Touch as the mare quickened her pace and prepared to take off with him around the arena.
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