Dutch reach World Cup final after 3-2 defeat of Uruguay

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CAPE TOWN - The Netherlands will play their first World Cup final in 32 years after defeating Uruguay 3-2 Tuesday.

Dutch wonder duo Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were both on target in the Cape Town semi-final after stunning long-distance goals from the teams’ two captains, the Netherlands’ Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Uruguay’s Diego Forlan.

Maximiliano Pereira’s goal for Uruguay in stoppage time came too late to make a difference.

With Germany and Spain contesting the other spot in the final, Tuesday’s result means a European team is guaranteed to win a World Cup organised outside Europe for the first time.

The last time the Dutch reached a World Cup final was in 1978, when they lost to hosts Argentina.

“We are so proud. It was a difficult match, but we fought and had a little luck. We are very satisfied,” said Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.

Uruguay go home with their heads held high after their best World Cup performance since 1970.

The last time the sides had met at a World Cup was in 1974, in a game won by the Dutch and featuring Forlan’s father in the Uruguay squad.

This time round, Forlan junior was leading the South Americans’ attack following the suspension of “hand of God” Luis Suarez.

Uruguay were also missing defender Jorge Fucile, also suspended, while the Dutch had to do without two suspended players, defender Gregory van der Wiel and midfielder Nigel de Jong.

Apart from a misfired effort from Dirk Kuyt on the 4th minute, the game struggled to lift off, with neither side taking too many risks.

It badly needed a surprise to get the crowd going, and a surprise they got: In the 18th minute, from nowhere land, Van Bronckhorst produced a missile of a shot that whooshed past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, hit the inside of the post and filled the Uruguay net.

It was all that the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander, and his wife, Princess Maxima, needed to party in the stands of Green Point Stadium.

Empty seats - about 62,500 fans filled the 64,100-capacity stadium - and a lack of a serious travelling support had left the atmosphere flat in the opening exchanges.

But judging by the huge roar that went up when the Netherlands scored and the boos that met Uruguayan fouls, there was no doubt as to whose side the neutrals were on.

After the surprise came drama. Martin Caceres attempted an overhead bicycle kick but hit Demy De Zeeuw’s face instead, leaving the Ajax midfielder bleeding profusely on the ground.

When play resumed, Robben almost doubled the Oranje’s lead but was blocked by Caceres.

Uruguay top scorer Forlan must have felt personally offended by Van Bronckhorst’s great effort, because in the 41st he decided to match it with another fantastic finish - more central but from almost the same distance, 27 metres - to make it 1-1 and stun the Dutch.

The Jabulani ball fluttered and swerved in the air, but Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg perhaps could have done better.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk decided it was time to take more risks after the break and substituted Demy de Zeeuw, a defensive midfielder, with the more attack-minded Van der Vaart.

But Uruguay grew in confidence and nearly profited from a reckless Khalid Boulahrouz backpass in the 50th minute.

Other episodes that saw them being caught on the ball suggested that Forlan’s goal had unsettled the Dutch.

In the 65th, Uruguay captain Forlan took a great free-kick from 28 metres, but this time the Dutch keeper did well to block it. Three minutes later, it was Van der Vaart’s turn to be denied by Muslera, with Robben firing the subsequent rebound high.

Despite plenty of effort from the South Americans, the Dutch proved to be devastatingly effective.

In the 70th Sneijder fired a rifle from inside the area, the ball was deflected by a Uruguayan leg and ended up in the far corner for the second Dutch goal.

And it took the Dutch only three more minutes to seal the game with a header from their other diminutive but classy player, Robben, who met a Kuyt cross from the right.

Uruguay, by now exhausted and ineffective, conceded defeat about 10 minutes from time by substituting Forlan.

Their second goal, from Pereira, came two minutes into stoppage time - too late to make a difference.

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