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The Netherlands is through to their first World Cup final since 1978 after a 3-2 win over Uruguay. The Dutch got goals from Giovani van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben in holding-off the Uruguayans, moving on to Sunday's final in Johannesburg.
The Dutch pulled-ahead in the 18th minute when van Bronckhorst found net with what looked to be a speculative shot from 30 yards out, even with the left edge of the penalty area. The shot ended-up perfect, going in high off Fernando Muslera's left post to give the Dutch a 1-0 lead.
Uruguay talisman Diego Forlán pulled La Celeste even near halftime - a 26-yard, left-footed shot swerving before it met goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, going in off the `keeper's left glove that sent the sides into intermission tied at one.
In the second half, Uruguay was able to carry-over some of their first half success, going through their right side to open-up attacking opportunities.
However, in the 70th minute, a controversial goal from Wesley Sneijder gave the Dutch a 2-1 lead. The midfielder's right footed shot from 17 yards out (from the left of the penalty area) deflected off a Uruguayan defender before bouncing through to the far post, going in to give the Netherlands the lead. The controversy was caused by Robin van Persie, in an offside position, moving his leg as the ball went by him, eight yards from goal. The goalkeeper seemed to pause, as if to maintain position for a possible redirection, possibly allowing the shot to beat him far post.
Three minutes later, Arjen Robben headed home a cross from the left flank, redirecting the pass to the near post, beating Fernando Muslera for Holland's third goal.
The match appeared to be settled, with both teams subbing their best players out (Forlan and Robben). However, in the 92nd minute, Uruguayan right back Maxi Pereira converted a 18-yard left-footed shot from a dead ball play to put Uruguay within one goal with two minutes of added-on time to play.
The Dutch survived those two minutes to clinch their first finals appearance since 1978, when they lost to host nation Argentina.
On Sunday, they will make their third finals appearance, facing either Spain or the nation against whom they waged their first final, rival Germany.
Uruguay will play in the third place match on Saturday in Port Elizabeth.
Right back Maxi Pereira has scored off a set piece in the 92nd minute to make it 3-2 in the last moments of their semifinal against the Dutch.
A dead ball 30 yards out was rolled to the right for an on-coming Pereira, the right back curling a left-footed shot into the far corner for Uruguay's second goal.
With added time, Uruguay should have two minutes to find an equalizing goal.
Any controversy surrounding their second goal will be forgotten if the Dutch maintain the two goal lead given to them by Arjen Robben's 73rd minute heard, taking a cross from the left flank and putting it near post to give the Netherlands a 3-1 lead.
The header came from near ten yards out, an easy finish even for a man who is not known for scoring with his head. The right winger, near the middle of the area, headed the cross just inside the neat post for the two goal lead.
The Netherlands maintain their 3-1 lead in the match's 85th minute.
Robin Van Persie, in an offside position nine yards from goal, did not touch Wesley Sneijder's shot, but having waved a foot at the passing ball, the Dutch forward may have frozen goalkeeper Fernando Muslera long enough to let the soft shot get past the goalie and onto the far post, going in to give the Netherlands a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute.
Sneijder put a shot toward net from 17 yards out to the left of goal. The ball deflected off a Uruguay defender, losing it's momentum while headed for t he goal's far corner. Robin van Persie, barely in an offside position, waved his foot at the bouncing ball but missed it; however, Fernando Muslera's weight seemed to be on his right foot, frozen by the action instead of moving for the shot.
Sneijder's ball bounced past the goalie and into goal, giving the Dutch a 2-1 lead.
Diego Forlan's direct kick from 20-yards out dipped sharply over the Dutch wall and toward the lower-left hand corner of goal, but a great save by Dutch `keeper Maarten Stekelenburg kept the Netherlands drawn 1-1 with Uruguay.
Uruguay earned the kick after having control for most of the second half, and Forlan's direct kick looked to be the culmination for their ascendancy. Stekelenburg, however, drove behind his wall to make his most difficult save of the match.
Netherlands right back Khalid Boulahrouz tempted fate early in the second half, with a lazy back-pass from near the center line failing to make its way back to goalkeeper Maartin Stekelenburg.
Instead, Uruguay attacker Edinson Cavani, in the 51st minute, got to the ball first and touched it around the hard-charging goalkeeper, eventually playing it to left midfielder Álvaro Pereira, who tried a chip into the open net.
Giovani van Bronckhorst, near the goal line, headed the ball away as Diego Forlán stood with arms outstretched near the spot, looked back at his teammate.
The match remains drawn 1-1 in the 59th minute.
Diego Forlán's equalizer, off his wrong-foot:
Know that de Zeeuw missed virtually no time:
Two moments of brilliance have speckled an otherwise evenly played first half to take Uruguay and the Netherlands into halftime tied at one.
Giovani van Bronckhorst's 18th minute goal from near 30-yards out went into the upper-right hand corner of goal, hitting off the top of Fernando Muslera's left post and going in to give the Dutch a 1-0 lead.
While the Dutch would go on to have most of the half's possession, they were unable to meaningfully test Muslera beyond their left back's goal, allowing Uruguay to come into the match over the last 20 minutes. Through the right flank, with Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayans were able to generate a number of half-chances.
In the 42nd minute, Diego Forlán, slightly against the run-of-play, pulled Uruguay even when he let go of a 26-yard, left-footed shot that went off of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg's left hand and into the net. It was Forlán's fourth goal of the tournament.
The Netherlands have held 58 percent of the possession and generated two shots on goal (to Uruguay's three), spending more of their time on their left flank, trying to attack right back Maxi Pereira. Throughout the half, coach Bert van Marwijk has switched wingers Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt, playing Robben on his uncustomary left side and moving Kuyt right.
Something from nothing is what players like Diego Forlán gives you, and in the 42nd minute against Holland, that something was a 26-yard goal with his off-foot to pull La Celeste even with the Netherlands, 1-1.
Taking an innocent ball from his midfielders, Forlán cut-in from even with the right post to the middle of goal, 26 yards out. The Uruguayan star let a shot go off his left foot that appeared to curl as it came upon goalkeeper Maarten Stekelengurg, going off the `keeper's left hand, into the net.
It was Forlán's fourth goal of the competition.
The score remains tied in the 46th minute.
Perhaps the next leader for goal of the tournament:
Left back Martin Caceres has had an up-and-down World Cup 2010 debut, but most of his ups have been in defense, as was the case in the 32nd minute when a strong play from the Uruguayan helped prevent a goal scoring chance for Arjen Robben.
The Dutch right wing, in the middle of the pitch (as the Dutch have spent most of the half attacking down the left flank) was the recipient of a Robin van Persie pass that allowed him to turn today the near post for a shot. His first touch put the ball too far in front of him, allowing Cáceres to get between ball and man at 12 yards out, allowing Fernando Muslera to come collect the ball.
Uruguay still trails the Dutch 1-0 in the 36th minute.
Martin Cáceres has picked-up a yellow card after unintentionally kicking Demy de Zeeuw in the face on a failed attempt at a bicycle kick.
In the 28th minute, Cáceres attempted an overhead kick at the edge of the Dutch penalty area, his right foot catching Dutch midfielder Demy de Zeeuw squarely in the face. De Zeeuw stayed down on the pitch for two minutes before walking off the pitch glassy-eyed.
Wesley Sneijder picked up a yellow card for confronting Cáceres after the incident.
The match remains 1-0, Netherlands in the 33rd minute.
Uruguay right back Maxi Pereira has picked up the first caution of the match, booked are a tackle on Arjen Robben saw him go under the Dutch attacker from behind. Referee Ravshan Irmatov booked the right back, on the left side after defending a set-piece, in the 22nd minute.
Now in the 25th minute, Holland remains in the lead, 1-0.
Netherlands captain Giovani van Bronckhorst was given space from 28-yards out for a speculative shot, but hit perfectly against the upper part of the far post, the left back has put the Netherlands up 1-0 in the match's 20th minute.
The Dutch had strung together a number of passes about 35 yards from goal, working the ball from the right flank to the middle, where Demy de Zeeuw laid-off a simple pass to the oncoming van Bronckhorst. The left back put his left boot to the ball for a perfect goal, giving Holland the early lead.
The match is now in the 22nd minute, with the Netherlands up 1-0.
In the tenth minute, Dirk Kuyt and the Dutch made their way through the right side of the Uruguayn defense, eventually playing an inquisitive cross from the left flank. Left back Martín Cáceres read the cross well but misplayed the cross, lofting a ball toward the touch line, forcing center half Mauricio Victorino to go to the by line an play a ball back in lest Uruguay conceded a corner kick.
Victorino's headed ball found Kuyt, and with the Dutch not having to worry about offside (for Victorino's position), Kuyt nearly found Arjen Robben making a run at the near post. Center half Diego Godin won the aerial challenge, killing the Dutch threat.
Now in the 13th minute, the match remains scoreless.
The match's first chance, albeit a half one, came to Dirk Kuyt in the third minute, when a poor punch from Uruguyan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera gave the left winger a chance in the left side of the penalty box.
Arjen Robben broke through Martín Cáceres on the right side of attack but could only put an attempted cross off a defender. The blocked ball came out to Wesley Sneijder who lofted a cross to the middle of the Uruguayan penalty area. Muslera came early for a punch that was awkwardly hit to the left side of the box. Kuyt was there for a half-volley back at the disorganized goalkeeper, though his shot went over the bar.
Uruguay and the Netherlands remain scoreless in the seventh minute.
There were no surprised in Bert van Marwijk's starting XI, with Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy de Zeeuw slotting into the team for their suspended teammates.
Boulahrouz resumes his once customary place at right back, where he replaces the suspended Gregory van der Weil, while de Zeeuw replaces Nigel de Jong, also suspended.
Joris Mathijsen returns to central defense after missing the quarterfinal with a knee injury picked-up in pre-match warm-ups.
Netherlands Starting XI
G - Maarten Stenkelenburg
LB - Giovani van Bronckhorst
LCB - Joris Mathijsen
RCB - John Heitenga
RB - Khalid Boulahrouz
DM - Demy de Zeeuw
DM - Mark van Bommel
LW - Dirk Kuty
AM - Wesley Sneijder
RM - Arjen Robben
F - Robin van Persie
Óscar Tabárez, missing one of this two prominent goal scorers, has switched from a three forward attack for Uruguay's semifinal against the Dutch.
Instead, Uruguay will go 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1), bringing Walter Gargano into the midfield, a move that could make Uruguay even more conservative than they've already been in this tournament. Whereas before they were playing a 4-3-1-2 with a conservative back seven, now Uruguay starts personnel to play two lines of four at the back.
At left back, replacing the suspended Jorge Fucile will be Martín Cácerers, the young Barcelona defender. Diego Godin has recovered from a thigh injury to start in central defense, but captain Diego Lugano has not. Mauricio Victorino will start instead.
Uruguay Starting XI
G - Fernando Muslera
LB - Martín Cáceres
LCB - Diego Godín
RCB - Mauricio Victorino
RB - Maxi Pereira
LM - Álvaro Pereira
CM - Walter Gargano
CM - Diego Pérez
RM - Egidio Arévalo
F - Diego Forlán
F - Edinson Cavani
A worldwide legion of Dutch fans have started to rejoice in this year’s World Cup success, their win over Brazil on Friday giving them license to feel the first twinges of accomplishment. Those feelings have allowed a paradox to be temporarily set-aside. The reason so many across the world fell in love with Dutch soccer - their free-flowing, idealistic approach to the game - is gone. Holland has reached the semifinals - their first appearance at this depth since 1978 - by eschewing idealism for practicality.
Bert van Marwijk is playing two defensive midfielders, being relatively conservative with his wing backs, and is employing a worker bee (Dirk Kuyt) in one of his attacking roles. This leaves the Dutch attack reliant on three players: right wing Arjen Robben, attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder, and forward Robin van Persie. Fortunately for the Dutch, those players are amongst the best in the world at their positions.
Arjen Robben is the first option. As he’s shown for club and country over the last eight months, his left foot can win matches by itself. His goal against Slovakia provided justification to every conservative step van Marwijk has taken, because at any point the Dutch can just throw a long ball up the right flank and have reason to think Robben can get a goal without build-up or support. The counterpoint to that, however, is what Brazil did - play exclusively on Robben’s left foot, even if you leave large areas to his right, and force him to come up with another plan, which he failed to do.
This is where van Persie and Sneijder have to step-up. When teams over-play Robben, van Persie needs to move along the line, into that space to the right of goal - the place where van Persie has scored his only goal of the tournament. That time, he was set-up by Rafeal van der Vaart. Today, it will have to be Sneijder, who will have to find a passing touch that he's throughout this tournament. Sneijder needs to overcome speculation that personal issues are inhibiting his chemistry with van Persie and find a way to get his strike opportunities.
For a Dutch team that has been unimpressive in attack in South Africa, their three stars, two plans represents a relative paucity of options. A lot of that is Uruguay's conservative approach, but some of it is the bargain van Marwijk has made. Because of that bargain, today's battle may need to be attritional - continued pressure, constant questions - enabled by the large possession advantage the Dutch are likely to have.
If they are patient and wait for a Robben rocket or a Sneijder-van Persie connection, they can win this game in the same controlled way they’ve navigated the tournament. It may not be very Dutch, but as has been shown through five matches in South Africa, it may be more effective.
After the first match of the tournament, Uruguay switched to an attack featuring three forwards: Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlán, who has played in a deeper role. Forlán’s positioning allows coach Óscar Tabárez to play his three midfielders deep, enabling La Celeste to go five World Cup matches allowing only two goals: a set piece conversion by South Korea and a jabulani-aided 40-yarder from Ghana.
With Suárez suspended and the Uruguayans taking a step-up in quality for today’s semifinal, Tabárez may be tempted to add another midfielder in Suárez’s place, shifting the formation from a 4-3-3 (4-3-1-2) to a 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1). In both formations, Forlán will be the most important player, providing the link between the deep midfield and attack. Uruguay has no other player who can be relied upon to carry or pass the ball into attack, through the area of the pitch which will be occupied by Mark van Bommel and Demy de Zeeuw.
To this point in the tournament, when Forlán has gotten the Uruguayans into attack he has had Suárez there for finish. Of Uruguay’s seven tournament goals, three have come from the suspended striker. Three more have come from Forlán, with the seventh a 95th minute goal from Álvaro Pereira against South Africa. Today, with Suárez suspended and Pereira possibly at left back - a replacement for the suspended Jorge Fucile - Diego Forlán may be Tabárez’s only hope for goals.
That sounds bleak, but if there’s a silver lining for Uruguay, it’s in a couple of absences at the back for the Netherlands. The Dutch will be without defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong, who would have been able to deter the link-up play for which Forlán is responsible. Instead, de Zeeuw will have that responsibility, and Forlán should have an easier time with him than the Manchester City bulldog. Once past that level, Uruguay will be able to attack the flanks, were Giovani van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz, coming into the team for the suspended Gregory van der Weil, are the weakest points in a suspect Dutch defense.
If Uruguay can see enough of the ball and navigate the issues they have in getting into attack, they can pull-off what would be a minor upset. Likely to see significant disadvantages in possession, La Celeste will have to make the most of the few chances they’ll been able to generate. Fortunately for Uruguay, given their strong defense and the trouble the Dutch have had creating opportunities, one goal could be enough, two goals should.
The World Cup's semifinals start on Tuesday in Cape Town with the tournament's remaining Cinderella getting another dance at the ball. For some, the controversial way in which the Uruguayans got here puts a scuff on their glass slipper. For most, the match-up all be about which of these relatively small nation makes it to the final: the modern or postmodern power.
Where They Stand The Dutch are coming off their 2-1 Friday win over tournament favorites Brazil, leaving them the only perfect team in the 2010 World Cup. Despite this stature, they have lacked the convincing play we normally associate with the Oranje. As a result, they are probably considered behind Germany and Spain as leaders to win this tournament.
Today, though, they will be favored against the Uruguayans despite yellow card accumulation suspensions to defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong and right back Gregory van der Weil. Demy de Zeeuw and Khalid Boulahrouz are expected to take their places, and with injury concerns to Robin van Persie and Joris Mathijsen alleviated, those will be the only two significant changes to the Dutch lineup.
Uruguay has two suspensions of their own, possibly more important than those suffered by the Dutch. Luis Suárez, their co-lead scorer, is suspended for his goal line handball against Ghana while left back Jorge Fucile will serve a yellow card accumulation suspension. Fucile’s loss is particularly important as he would be the player opposite Holland’s biggest threat, right wing Arjen Robben.
Uruguay may also be missing captain and center half Diego Lugano, who had to leave the quarterfinal at half time with a knee injury. His partner, Diego Godín, is expected to return to the lineup having missed time with a thigh injury.
Players To Watch, the Netherlands: Arjen Robben was kept off the scoresheet by a Brazilian team that overplayed his left foot, leaving the Bayern winger to make his impact through theatrically attempting to draw fouls. If Uruguay takes a similar tact today, and without van der Weil on the right to use the space vacated when Robben cuts in, Robin van Persie could use the area, running behind the line to the open spaces to the right of goal. Judging by Robben’s inability (unwillingness) to use his right foot, it will be up to Wesley Sneijder to find him, provided the midfielder is ready to start acknowledging his striker’s existence.
Players To Watch, Uruguay: With Suárez suspended, Edinson Cavani will have to have more of a presence in attack. To this point, his greatest contribution has been allowing Diego Forlán to drop deeper to help the link-up play, and while it is tempting to say Forlán could merely move back into a striker’s role, that would leave a huge gap between Uruguay’s three, deep midfielders and their forwards. Those midfielders, specifically Diego Pérez, will have their hands full with Sneijder, Robben, and van Persie. It may be a bit much to ask them to start playing more ambitiously.
Prediction: Were Uruguay at full strength they would be exactly the type of side to make Bert van Marwijk rue his more conservative approach, but with (at least) half their defense out and their leading scorer suspended, the Dutch will be able to ask enough questions of the Celeste to eventually get a Netherlands 2, Uruguay 0 result, leaving them to hope their rematch of 1974 manifests for Sunday’s final.
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