The Netherlands will play in the World Cup final after beating Uruguay 3-2 in Cape Town. Goals from Gio van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben overcame efforts from Diego Forlan and Maximiliano Perreira.
The match was not as close as 3-2 suggests with Uruguay’s second goal coming at the end of the game when the Dutch relaxed too early.
Martin Carcares made his first appearance of the finals as suspensions militated changes for Oscar Tabarez’s men. Walter Gargano had played just one, and Luis Suarez was suspended of course for that handball that deprived Ghana of a win over them in the quarter finals.
Inspirational captain Diego Lugano was absent too. Present though was Diego Forlan once of Manchester United, and the source of three of Uruguay’s goals in this tournament already.
Khalid Boulahrouz came in at right back, and Demy de Zeeuw in midfield. Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel were suspended.
The Netherlands had the early chances and just three minutes had gone when Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt fired over after Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera had punches Wesley Sneijder’s cross outward. Nine minutes later Sneijder struck Robin van Persie with the same shot.
Five minutes later the Dutch took the lead. Former Arsenal midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst accepted the ball on left midfield after every other Dutch midfielder had moved the ball leftward. The skipper unleashed a thunderbolt which left Muslera no chance as he desperately dived to his left with just seventeen minutes gone.
Three minutes later Maximiliano Pereira picked up the game’s first yellow for a foul on Arjen Robben as the Uruguayans struggled to come to terms with the match. Martin Caceres joined him after connecting with De Zeeuw’s lip as he attempted an overhead kick. Sneijder picked up a pointless yellow for getting involved in the subsequent discussions as all tried to persuade Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov that they were the most reliable eye witnesses to the incident.
Caceres was a saviour for the light blues, when he produced a last ditch tackle to deny Robben after half an hour. Less heroic was Edinson Cavani’s swallow dive in the Dutch penalty area, prompted by van Bronckhorst leaping clumsily with his arm too near the throat of the Uruguay striker.
Muslera saved comfortably from Dirk Kuyt with six minutes to go until half time. It was to signify a change in the direction of the game. One minute later, Diego Forlan tried a long range effort of his own. It was too central to the goal for Stekelenburg to dive left or right, but the ball dipped over him and the Dutch keeper’s hand was a few inches wide of where it ought to have been when the ball reached him. It was Forlan’s fourth of these finals but Uruguay were back in the hunt for a place in the 2010 World Cup final.
Three minutes later, he fired a free kick straight at Stekelenburg who collected cleanly.
Rafael van der Vaart came on for de Zeeuw at half time and the second half started more cautiously than the first had ended.
Uruguay had its first chance as Cavani rounded Stekelenburg who had come charging out of his penalty area to field a lazy Boulahrouz back pass. He was too wide to shoot but laid the ball back to Alvaro Pereira whose lofted effort was headed out from under the bar by van Bronckhorst.
Maarten Stekelenburg was the busier keeper in the first 15 minutes of the second half with one crucial catch and another punch fending off Uruguay pressure. He produced a regulation save twenty minutes after the interval from a Forlan free kick, awarded after van Bommel clipped Carcares.
The Netherlands withstood what pressure Uruguay had been able to exert and soon regained the ascendancy. Van Persie brought down a lofted through ball superbly in the inside left position and threaded an excellent pass to van der Vaart who produced a great save from Fuslera. Robben blasted over the rebound and the Dutch had passed up their best chance of the second half in the 68th minute.
It wasn’t to matter. Two minutes later, Wesley Sneijder shot from the edge pf the penalty box. His effort took a cruel deflection off Perreira, and van Persie wisely decided to leave it, especially wise as he was arguably standing in an offside position. It was Sneijder’s seventh goal in Holland’s last eight games.
The Dutch seemed to have provided the obese lady with both refrain and lyrics within seconds. Arjen Robben escaped his much taller marker, Diego Godin, and headed home Kuyt’s cross to score the 2200 World Cup finals goal of all time.
At 3-1, it should have been safe and Robben could have made it four but tapped his shot at Muslera after van Persie fed him an easy chance. However Uruguay had a sting in the tail to provide. Perreira curled in a consolation after receiving the ball from a late free kick.
The referee extended the play slightly more than the three minutes signified but the Netherlands held on to appear in their third World Cup final, where they will meet Germany or Spain in the eighth all European final.
Uruguay: 1-Fernando Muslera; 3-Diego Godin, 6-Mauricio Victorino, 5-Walter Gargano, 16-Maximiliano Pereira, 22-Martin Caceres, 15-Diego Perez, 11-Alvaro Pereira, 17-Egidio Arevalo, 7-Edinson Cavani, 10-Diego Forlan.
Netherlands: 1-Maarten Stekelenburg; 12-Khalid Boulahrouz, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 7-Dirk Kuyt, 6-Mark van Bommel, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 14-Demy de Zeeuw, 11-Arjen Robben; 9-Robin van Persie.
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)