Orange squash Uruguay

2010-07-07 00:00

AFTER decades of being the bridesmaids of the tournament, the Netherlands are one match away from realising their dream of a World Cup victory following last night’s 3-2 semi-final defeat of Uruguay in Cape Town.

A Dutch side who have tempered their attacking verve and shown focus, determination and discipline to maintain early form through to the latter stages of the tournament — previously an Achilles heel — reached their third World Cup final with last night’s polished victory.

In doing so they at least matched the feat of the great “Total Football” generation of the 1970s, who were losing finalists in 1974 and 1978.

Holland’s build-up play at the World Cup might not have been adventurous in the swashbuckling traditions of Dutch football, but the end result has been explosive — particularly from winger Arjen Robben and midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who were both on the scoresheet again last night.

The Dutch have shown an ability to control a game for 90 minutes that seems sure to guarantee a final of the highest possible standard. This will be against either the best team in the world of the past two years, Spain, or the tournament’s young, dynamic form side, Germany — tonight’s semi-finalists in Durban.

The Dutch players danced and celebrated in front of a big block of their singing fans long after the stadium had otherwise emptied.

Uruguay have outdone themselves in this tournament. They reached the semi-finals in a physical, win-at-all-costs manner that had won them few friends.

In the end, though, while the approach might not have been pretty, Uruguay commanded respect for the passion and sheer resolve they displayed.

Diego Forlan’s masterful, creative influence guiding his team to the semi-finals has been immense, and one of the highlights of the tournament.

Uruguay might have troubled Holland more had striker Luis Suarez not been suspended for the handball on the goal-line that kept his side in the competition in their quarter-final victory against Ghana.

Ultimately, though, it was a step too far for South America’s lone remaining competitors to raise themselves once more against the odds and beat a super-slick Netherlands.

Holland had the first chance at goal in the third minute when Sneij­der’s cross was half-cleared by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and fell to Dirk Kuyt, who blasted his shot over the bar.

The Dutch controlled the game early on with the cautious football — though with a mean sting in the tail — that has been their hallmark in this competition.

From one such patient move, stroking the ball around outside the Uruguayan area, captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst produced a spectacular 18th-minute opener. Robben steered the ball to left-back Van Bronckhorst in an advanced position and the Feyenoord defender’s 30 metre drive bulged the top-right corner of Muslera’s net. It was a goal worthy of a World Cup semi-final.

It took an equally impressive effort from Uruguay’s attacking prince, Forlan, to get Uruguay back on level terms in the 41st minute.

During a strong period for the South Americans at the end of the first half, the Atletico Madrid striker levelled the scores with his third superb long-range goal of the tournament. Maarten Stekelenburg got a touch to the snarling left-footed curler on its way into his net, but, like Itumeleng Khune and Richard Kingson before him, was wrong-footed by the vicious swing Forlan got on his shot.

Dutch frustration at some seemingly impenetrable Uruguayan defending showed at the beginning of the second half when Khalid Boulahrouz’s sloppy backpass forced Stekelenburg to come out and challenge at the feet of Edinson Cavani.

Forlan’s 28 metre free-kick then tested Stekelenburg, but the Dutch showed their class to wrest control of the game.

Robben spurned a chance to retake the lead in the 68th minute when he skied his shot, running on to the rebound of Kuyt’s effort, which had been saved by Muslera.

Two minutes later the Dutch did make it 2-1 when Sneijder’s angled shot took a slight deflection off Maximilliano Pereira and wormed in past Muslera.

Within three minutes of that strike Robben made up for his earlier miss with the killer blow. Kuyt’s cross from the left was headed in powerfully by the unmarked Bayern Munich winger and Holland had a two-goal cushion.

Robben could have put the game beyond doubt when Van Persie’s touch put the winger through on goal in the 87th minute, but the finish was too tame to beat Muslera,

Pereira’s powerful finish past Stekelenburg two minutes into injury time pulled a goal back for Uruguay, and made for a more exciting finish than the Dutch dominance had warranted.

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