By: Jacob Singer
The Netherlands will be heading to an all European final in South Africa this coming Sunday after a fantastic semi-final against Uruguay. This will be the Dutch’s first trip since ’78. Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were on target, but a shocker came from Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, only his sixth goal in over a hundred games. Diego Forlan and Maxi Pereira scored for Uruguay, a dark horse team that progressed further than their favored neighbors Brazil and Argentina.
In previous matches the Dutch maintained possession but rarely pushed the ball forward at the beginning of the match. Against Uruguay, they turned on the heat right at the starting whistle. It paid off in the 18th minute when Van Bronckhorst scored off a thirty yard missile to the upper right corner of the net. The Uruguayan defense had fallen back into the box—they were more concerned about the Dutch forwards—which allowed him, a defender, the time and space to line up the shot. It exemplified how pressure can create opportunities and how the well-rounded Dutch team exploited that moment. While the Netherlands have not dominated opponents like Germany, they are able to find goals from a range of players and consistently win.
There was a bit of a scare when Martin Caceres’s bicycle kick caught Demy De Zeeuw in the face. Caceres received a yellow for a dangerous play and Sneijder earned one for roughing the Uruguayans.
In the 41st minute Forlan scored a goal from thirty yards out. Maarten Stekelenburg took a half-step to the right while the ball bent to the left. He got a hand on the shot but couldn’t stop it. This goal paralleled the previous Dutch goal.
At halftime both teams looked even. The Netherlands were maintaining possession, and Uruguay were creating a number of opportunities but not following through. In the 51st minute a bad back pass forced Steckelenburg to come off the line. Uruguay was able to gain possession and take shot on a more or less open net. The only thing that stopped the South Americans from going a goal up was Van Bronckhorst, who headed the ball out of bounds and gave his team a look of disappointment. At moments like that one becomes aware of a chink in the Dutch armor.
In the 70th minute Sneijder shot into traffic. The ball whizzed past Van Persie, who looked offside, and into the net. There is a good chance that the goal will join the rest of the evidence in the ever developing controversy about the role of goal line technology and instant replay in FIFA tournaments. That goal puts Sneijder at five, tied with Spain’s David Villa for the most goals in the 2010 Cup. It also places him as a contender for FIFA Player of the Year. He won a treble with his club and has led his team to a World Cup final. That’s a strong case. Minutes later, in the 73rd, Kuyt bent a ball towards Robben, who took a half a step back and headed the ball into the corner, catching the upright and bouncing into the net.
For a while it seemed that the Netherlands were sailing into the final, but in the 92nd minute Maxi Pereira scored when he slid a ball through traffic and past Steckelenburg in almost identical fashion to Sniejder’s. Forlan’s goal looked like Van Bronkhorst; Pereira’s matched Sneijder’s. So with a minute left all hell broke loose as Uruguay, looking for another miracle, threw everything they had at the Dutch. The Netherlands cleared attack after attack while waiting for the final whistle, which when blown let the players celebrate the fact that their winning streak had led them to the World Cup final.