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.
Netherlands versus Uruguay, Cape Town, 2:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN
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.