Uruguay vs. Netherlands: Dutch win, 3-2, advance to first World Cup final since 1978
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA -- As a first-time host of soccer's grand spectacle, Africa opened the 2010 World Cup with tremendous good will showered upon its six qualifying teams.
By the quarterfinals, South America had emerged as the tournament's dominant player, with four of its five squads among the last eight.
But Tuesday at Cape Town Stadium, the Netherlands did its part in restoring Europe as the leading actor in the World Cup, defeating an undermanned but resilient squad from Uruguay, 3-2, in the first of the tournament's two semifinals to guarantee an all-European final.
The Netherlands will face either Spain, the 2008 European champion, or three-time World Cup champion Germany, for the sport's most coveted trophy Sunday at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium. The loser of Wednesday's semifinal in Durban will face Uruguay in the third-place match Saturday in Port Elizabeth.
Dutch soccer fans erupted in cheers, song and ear-splitting vuvuzela blasts when Wesley Sneijder, their most prolific scorer, struck the 70th-minute goal that reclaimed the lead after a tense first half ended in a 1-1 deadlock.
Once the victory was official following a spirited surge by Uruguay, which scored to make it a one-goal game during stoppage time, a throng estimated at 40,000 to 50,000 erupted anew in Amsterdam's Museum Square, where Dutch supporters watched the proceedings on massive outdoor screens. Almost immediately, according to news reports, KLM, the nation's major airline, announced the addition of three extra flights to Johannesburg for the weekend's final.
Tuesday's victory sends the Netherlands to the World Cup final for the first time since 1978. And that history, and the defeats that resulted in 1974 and 1978, came immediately to mind for Coach Bert van Marwijk as his players celebrated their feat.
"It's quite something we achieved after 32 years," van Marwijk said afterward. "The thing is: We're not there yet. There is going to be one more match."
Tuesday's outcome surprised few. The Netherlands is the only team in the World Cup that has yet to lose a match, its record is now 6-0-0.
And it disappointed fewer still in Africa, where hostility toward Uruguay still lingered four days after Luis Suarez's controversial handball blocked a shot that would have sent Ghana, the continent's last standing team, to the semifinals.
Cape Town shopkeepers and taxi drivers were more than happy to talk about Uruguay's lack of fair play and the injustice that resulted in the days that followed. The local newspapers' letters-to-the-editor sections were filled with indignant commentary, as well.
Uruguay went on to defeat Ghana on penalty kicks. But with Suarez suspended for the flagrant foul, La Celeste lacked a critical piece of its offense against the Netherlands. And Coach Oscar Tabarez conceded as much in advance, acknowledging that Uruguay entered the match "with modest hope and enormous faith."