Wednesday, July 7, 2010
There was a fear that the first semifinal of the 2010 World Cup between Uruguay and the Netherlands was going to be a tedious, hard fought match which will climax in a penalty shoot-out. I am glad we did not have to sit through that. Instead we witnessed a high-scoring match, two unstoppable long range shots and the best Oranjemen performance so far in this World Cup.
The absence of Nigel de Jong allowed for the introduction of Demy de Zeeuw. The Ajax defensive midfielder did not last long and had to be replaced at halftime. That turned out to be a pivotal moment in the game as Rafael van der Vaart came on and gave the Oranjemen the boost to emerge victors. Martin Caceres must be distraught as it was his overhead kick in the 27th minute that floored the Ajax man, resulting in the enforced substitution. A substitution which handed Holland the game winning initiative.
Mark van Bommel was immense with his tackles last night. He retrieved the ball 31 times off Uruguayan opposition and generally did two people's dirty work in midfield yesterday. Jabulani's unpredictablility also had an impact on the match. A stunning rocket from van Bronckhorst gave Holland the lead until a wicked swerve from Jabulani deceived Stekelenburg and Forlan got his fourth goal of the tournament.
Those two great goals proved Juninho's statement true, that all you need is a bit of practice on the ball they call "Rejoice". Holland dominated the match after half time with van der Vaart pulling the strings in the attacking third. Sneijder again scoring a lucky deflected goal and Robben put the issue beyond doubt with a smartly headed goal. The Oranjemen had too much in the tank for Uruguay and the gap in class began to show.
Holland steps into the final, knowing that they have the quality and steely determination to win when it matters. Their ability to change the match at will makes them very dangerous customers indeed. The fact that they have so many match winners (Robben, Sneijder, van der Vaart, Kuyt or van Persie) means that unlike Spain (Villa) or Germany (Klose) with one clear goalscoring threat, every Dutch player require careful attention.
The Dutch were beaten finalists in the '74 and '78 final, therefore they will be hoping that it is third time lucky. The class of 2010 is obviously motivated to go one better than the great Dutch sides of the late 70s and add the World Cup trophy to the Gullit-inspired European championship trophy. Van Marwijk's men have won six straight matches in this year's tournament and now they are a seventh win away from adding a new name to the elite group of World Cup winners.
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