Dutch power into World Cup final

Dutch players celebrate reaching their first World Cup final for 32 years AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

The Netherlands have beaten Uruguay 3-2 to reach their third football World Cup final.

This content was published on July 6, 2010 - 22:31

Dutch goals from Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben have set up an all-European final in Johannesburg on Sunday against either Spain or Germany. Diego Forlan and Maximiliano Pereira scored for Uruguay.

The Dutch have never lifted the trophy but made the final twice, in 1974 and 1978, losing to West Germany and then Argentina.

Tuesday’s clash in Cape Town was between the tournament’s last two unbeaten teams. They had previously met on four occasions, with Uruguay winning three times and the Dutch one. Bookmakers however made the Netherlands firm favourites.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez handed Forlan the captain's armband and made four changes to his line-up due to suspensions and injury from the team that beat Ghana on penalties in the quarterfinals.

Edinson Cavani took up a more advanced role, with Luis Suarez out following his red card for a last-minute handball against Ghana.

For the Netherlands, centre back Joris Mathijsen returned from injury and coach Bert van Marwijk made two changes to cover for suspensions, bringing in Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy de Zeeuw for Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong.

Long shots

The match between two-time winner Uruguay (1930 and 1950) and two-time runner-up the Netherlands (1974 and 1978) came to life in the 18th minute, when Dutch defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst scored what is technically known as an “absolute screamer” from a full 37 metres.

The Uruguayan keeper had no chance as the ball fizzed into the top-left corner for one of the goals of the tournament.

Four minutes before half-time, Diego Forlan equalised – from a mere 30 metres – although Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg probably should have done better.

Uruguay started the second half the stronger team, although the mood, not to mention the score line, changed in the 69th minute when Wesley Sneijder notched up his fifth World Cup goal.

His shot deflected off Maximiliano Pereira and through the legs of Robin van Persie, who was just offside and clearly interfering in play.

Sneijder remains on course for an incredible quadruple: the Coppa Italia, Serie A title, Champions League trophy and World Cup – all within 67 days. The grander Dutch aim is to go one further than the Total Football generation of 1974-78 and lift the Jules Rimet trophy.

This aim was given a boost in the 72nd minute when Robben directed a powerful header, from a Kuyt cross, into the Uruguayan net from five metres.

However, Dutch fans had a sweaty final few minutes after Pereira in the 91st minute sent a lovely low shot into the far corner from the edge of the area.

"This is unforgettable," Sneijder said. "It was a tough fight and towards the end we complicated matters. Sunday we play in the World Cup final. I have to get used to that."

Eight-legged oracle

The second semifinal will be played on Wednesday in Durban between Spain and Germany. Spain are the very slight favourites in that match.

German fans were stunned on Tuesday however when Paul the octopus predicted Spain would sink Germany (see link).

The eight-legged oracle from Oberhausen's Sea Life Aquarium chose a mussel from a glass tank marked with a Spanish flag and ignored a tank emblazoned with Germany's colours.

But there could still be hope for the Germans. The only time the usually prescient Paul has erred in the past was ahead of the Germany-Spain final at the 2008 European Championship. Paul picked Germany; Spain prevailed 1-0.

"Paul has decided that Spain will win," spokesman Daniel Fey said. "But – and that's a big but – Paul got it wrong only one time and that was also a game between Germany and Spain. Therefore we think he just can't get it right when it comes to this combination."

Amid intense anticipation of Wednesday's game, the eight-legged expert's pick was even broadcast live by two national television stations.

Paul's record at this World Cup has been flawless so far. In the first round of play, he correctly predicted German victories over Australia and Ghana and the country's loss to Serbia.

England and Argentina then produced invertebrate performances in the next two rounds to match Paul's predictions that Germany would win. Now it's up to seafood-crazy Spain to prove him right.

Thomas Stephens,

Team sheets

Uruguay: Muslera; Maximiliano Pereira, Victorino, Godin, Caceres; Perez, Arevalo, Gargano, Alvaro Pereira (78. Abreu); Forlan (84. Sebastian Fernandez), Cavani.

Netherlands: Stekelenburg; Boulahrouz, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, De Zeeuw (46. Van der Vaart); Robben (90. Elia), Sneijder, Kuyt; Van Persie.

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