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The Dutch crush Forlan and co, finally condemning them...


Africa, Sport

The Dutch crush Forlan and co, finally condemning them to history. Oh yes, they also qualify for the World Cup 2010 final

As we’ve been used to at this World Cup, it was another war until the very last second. As always, the Uruguayans fought bravely but this time the orange tide was overwhelming. The match ended The Netherlands 3, Uruguay 2, guaranteeing that, for the first time ever, a European team will win the Cup outside Europe.

It is a long-established truth that the best games of any World Cup are semi-final games. By the time they reach semi-finals, teams usually gel into a great organism and are ready to produce the best games of their footballing lives. Not this time, though. Cape Town’s Green Point stadium saw a team of cautious Dutch players meet a wounded team of Uruguayans that was lacking some of their best players. The result was a game that was decidedly not pretty; and yet, the tension in the air was so palpable that the emotions alone were worth watching it for.

Even before the game, there was an air of inevitability in the air: the Dutch were simply too strong, with all their major stars ready to play, while Uruguay was missing some of its key players in captain Diego Lugano, defender Jorge Fucile and, of course, Luis “hand of God” Suarez. By all accounts, it was the Dutch’s game to lose. And yet, for most of the game, reality refused to comply with preconceptions: while the Dutch did take the lead in 18th minute, via freakishly brilliant shot by their captain van Bronckhorst, it was still obvious that the Uruguayans do not have the words “surrender” and “impossible” in their vocabulary.

For most of the game, they stood their own, fighting the Dutch play-by-play, move-by-move. Forlan’s equiliser in 41st minute was equally brilliant and the game looked destined for extra time when the Dutch got what they’ve already been very blessed with this World Cup: some luck. Sneijder’s weakish shot was deflected into the goal, behind a bewildered Muslera, who didn’t really stand much chance. A few minutes later, the Uruguayans’ role in the semi-finals was reduced to being polite observers when Robben uncharacteristically and brilliantly headed Kuyt’s cross into the very corner of the goal that was most difficult to reach.

Uruguay’s second goal came way too late to hope they’d slot one more into the back of the net in the 120 seconds or so that remained of the match; nevertheless, it was fascinating TV.

The Dutch are now heading for an all-European final. Beautiful soccer theirs ain’t, but very efficient it is. They are not going to be easy to deal with in the final, their suffering opponent being Germany OR Spain.

Here are the reporter’s notes:

Starting line-ups

Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Godín, Mauricio Victorino, Martín Cáceres, Diego Pérez, Wálter Gargano, Egidio Arévalo, Álvaro Pereira , Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlán

The Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg, Khalid Boulahrouz, Johnny Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Arjen Robben, Mark van Bommel, Wesley Sneijder, Demy de Zeeuw, Dirk Kuyt, Robin van Persie

Before the match

Both countries made several changes for the World Cup semi-final at Green Point Stadium.

Mathijsen is back to the centre of the Dutch defence in place of Ooijer after missing the quarter-final win over Brazil with a knee injury. Right fullback Boulahrouz and midfielder de Zeeuw are in instead of van der Wiel and de Jong.

From the Uruguay side of the pitch, Lugano is missing out through injury, while Fucile and Suarez are suspended. Coach Tabarez is hoping that his forced re-organising, especially of defence, will not turn out to be a disaster.

First half

  • 3rd minute: Robben’s cross is not dealt with confidently by Muslera, and the ball lands straight onto Kuyt’s feet, who shoots powerfully but high over the crossbar.
  • 6th minute: Pereira tries to surprise Stekelenburg from 55 metres, but the shot is not precise and Stekelenburg was already back to the goal line.
  • 10th minute: A dangerous cross from the out line by Kuyt puts Muslera under plenty of pressure, but the Uruguayan keeper is tall and up to the task.

In the first 15 minutes, the Dutch are their usual cautious selves while Uruguay miss Suarez terribly. The Uruguayan defence is very good, but the attack is a bit without teeth.

  • 18th minute: The Dutch score! What do you say, the captain! Giovanni van Bronkhorst’s shot is better described as a rocket. It flew 30 metres from the left-hand side and Muslera pretty much had no chance.

Photo: Uruguay’s goalkeeper Fernando Muslera dives but fails to save the shot on goal by Netherlands’ Giovanni van Bronckhorst during their 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match at Green Point stadium in Cape Town July 6, 2010. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

  • 21st minute: Maximiliano Pereira gets the first yellow for a tough start from behind on Robben. Completely deserved.
  • 27th minute: The First corner for Uruguayans produces unrest as Cáceres’s attempt at an air kick ends on de Zeeuw’s head, knocking him instantly. Luckily, after 90 seconds of an ER24 scene, de Zeeuw is back on his feet. Of course, Cáceres gets a yellow card too.
  • 32nd minute: Van Bronckhorst elbows Cavani in the neck, causing the Uruguayan attacker to fall spectacularly on the ground. Uzbek referee Irmatov is not fazed.
  • 35th minute: Dangerous attack by the Uruguayans, with Cavani eventually wasting the ball.
  • 36th minute: Alvaro Pereira’s shot is the first Uruguayan shot that Stekelenburg has to save, which he does with ease.
  • 38th minute: Forlan’s header from 13 metres is far and wide.

Since van Bronkhorst’s goal, Uruguay more or less control the play in some sort of feeble rage, while the Dutch are mostly passive, defending carefully, waiting for their moment to engage, like Kuyt did now.

  • 41st minute: Forlan scores!!! Out of nothing, Uruguay are back in the game. Forlan’s shot from 20 metres curves mightily in front of Stekelenburg and the ball ends up buried under the crossbar. While some may feel the keeper could have done better, there are many questions to be asked about the Jabulani ball. Forlan is brilliant.

Photo: Uruguay’s Diego Forlan scores a goal during their 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match against Netherlands at Green Point stadium in Cape Town July 6, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

  • 44th minute: Forlan’s free kick is on target, but Stekelenburg didn’t have much problem saving it.
  • 47th minute: The first half ends.

One has to hand it to the Uruguayans. Although without key players and facing a hostile stadium, they are still firmly in the game. Forlan must rank as the best player of the World Cup so far. As for the Dutch, they are rather subdued, and more or less the only good thing they’ve done is their captain’s goal. That’s it.

Second half

Real Madrid’s van der Vaart is replacing de Zeeuw, who is probably feeling the effects of getting a boot to the face, circa the 27th minute.

The Uruguayans appear to have learned a lesson from Brazil’s loss to the Dutch: they keep a really tight lock on Robben, but they are much more careful in not fouling him. Their defence, even when manned by second-stringers, is rather well organised.

  • 51st minute: Chaos in the Dutch defence is cleared up by van Bronkhorst’s header into the corner. But the Dutch coach will be rather worried about the lack of communication between Stekelenburg and Heitinga.
  • 55th minute: The Dutch appear toothless so far tonight. Kuyt’s cross into the Uruguayan penalty box met no interested attackers in orange.
  • 60th minute: Uruguay’s promising attack ends in Forlan’s back-header that Stekelenburg easily controls.
  • 63rd minute: The Dutch are besieging the Uruguayan box, but have not much to show for it.
  • 66th minute: Free kick from the 25 metres, pretty much from the same spot Forlan scored against Ghana. His great shot is well saved by Stekelenburg, who had to fly to the far bottom corner to push it into the corner.
  • 68th minute: Van der Vaart’s low shot into the far corner was brilliantly saved by Muslera, while Robben skied the rebound.
  • 70th minute: Sneijder scores again for the Dutch! His low shot from the left corner of the penalty box was deflected into Muslera’s goal. The Uruguayans are shattered by the goal. Will they have enough power to come back once again?
  • 74th minute: Robben scores another for the Dutch!!! Kuyt’s cross from the left-hand side literally found Robben’s forehead, whose shot ended in the far corner of Muslera’s goal. The Dutch are now on their way to Soccer City on Sunday.

Photo: Netherlands’ Arjen Robben (C) scores a goal during their 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match against Uruguay at Green Point stadium in Cape Town July 6, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

  • 84th minute: The miniature (168cm) Sebastian Fernandez replaces Diego Forlan, who was truly magnificent at this World Cup.
  • 86th minute: Robben runs away in a counter-attack but at the end his limp shot is the softest of passes to Muslera.
  • 88th minute: Van der Vaart’s shot from 25 metres ends straight in Muslera’s hands.
  • 90th minute: Robben yields his spot to Elia, hailed by an ovation from the Dutch fans.
  • 92nd minute: Maximiliano Pereira scores for Uruguay! A wonderful set piece from the free kick sees him coolly slotting the shot into the right-hand corner of Stekelenburg’s box.

The Dutch survive through two very nervous minutes, during which Van Bommel, one of the dirtiest players alive, finally gets his well-deserved yellow card. Uruguayans did their utmost best, but scoring against the Dutch in the space of 120 seconds borders on the impossible.

  • 95th minute: The match ends, and the Dutch are in the final of the 2010 World Cup.

Main photo: Netherlands’ John Heitinga (R) celebrates with Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben (L) and Dirk Kuyt (2nd L) after their 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match against Uruguay at Green Point stadium in Cape Town July 6, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria


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