Kick-off: Tuesday, 6th July – 7:30pm
Venue: Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
The likelihood of Uruguay being South America’s one and only representative at the semi-final point of the competition would have been slim at the very beginning of the tournament, just as unlikely even at the quarter-final stage where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay all remained alive and kicking up till then. We are left with just one however and that’s a testament in itself to the hard work the players and management have put into getting Uruguay this far in the competition, just a match away from an unbelievable final.
Even with just four teams left in South Africa 2010, it’s difficult to comprehend a team, or country, such as Uruguay winning the tournament. On paper they have an alright team, exceptionally talented in places, but a FIFA World Cup winner certainly not. But, though, through the wise guidance of coach Oscar Tabrez, as well as receiving a helping hand from Luis Suarez, Uruguay have achieved the unthinkable and are close to making the seemingly impossible very much a reality. In fact, after receiving a huge portion of good luck in their last-eight clash with African favourites Ghana – Winning a tense and nervy penalty shoot-out 4-2 – you could even say luck is on Uruguay’s side, and that despite facing one of the favourites to now lift the trophy on July 11th, have this fortuitous aurora around them which may very well see them through this difficult last-four encounter with the Dutch.
Were it not for forward Luis Suarez’s hand intervention in the dying minutes of the game with Ghana, preventing a clear goal in what was the last attack of the match, we wouldn’t be talking up Uruguay’s chances right now. Suarez, who was later seen celebrating vigorously as Gyan missed the resulting spot-kick, will now miss this semi-final clash although coach Oscar Tabarez received yet more good fortune in news that the Ajax striker won’t have his suspension stretched any further and that should Uruguay progress past Holland on Tuesday, Luis Suarez, who accounts for three of Uruguay’s tournament goals, will play in the final against either Germany or Spain. On the other hand, one of their bright sparks in midfield, Nicolas Lodeiro, will miss the rest of the finals with an ankle injury. Is Karma beginning to play his part in proceedings?
Uruguay weren’t at their best when overcoming Ghana in the previous round, often having little option but to ride out a Ghanian storm. For the most part, large chunks in fact, Uruguay were second best and owed a lot to some individual brilliance from their star man once again, when Diego Forlan’s fiercely struck free-kick beat Richard Kingson in the Ghana goal all ends up. With the exception of that magnificent goal, Uruguay offered very little from an attacking sense and against a Holland team which will ask far more questions of their defence whilst controlling the pace and tempo of the game in midfield, a lot more is required from the South Americans as they aim to qualify for their third World Cup final, their first since 1950.
Despite being many people’s fancy before the tournament, ours included, few expected them to have enough in reserve to overhaul the five-time champions Brazil in the quarter’s. With ten minutes on the clock and the Dutch already a goal down, many were quick to write off Holland’s chances against the team many believed were shaping up as likely winners of South Africa 2010. How they were wrong, as the Dutch produced an Oranje storm in the second half to shock the footballing world with a stunning turnaround, Wesley Sneijder at the heart of the tournament’s biggest shock. Now they’ve done the hard work, can Holland finish Uruguay as the continue their relentless pursuit of their first FIFA World Cup triumph?
After claiming the scalp of the mighty Brazil in the previous round, in an almost knee-jerk reaction, everyone is now touting Holland as finalist, barely comprehending another surprise with the downfall of the Dutch in the last-four against Uruguay. But Holland have been in this situation before and faltered, when losing out to Brazil at France ‘98 in the semi’s. Of course, it goes almost without saying that the Brazil team then was a lot better than that of Uruguay’s current crop, but the Dutch, as we’ve said on many occasions, have this trait of letting people down when the reward is great but the pressure and expectations are immense. So it remains to be seen whether this current Dutch bunch can hold their nerve at such a nail-biting stage of the competition.
The news that Robin Van Persie’s arm injury sustained in that sensational 2-1 victory over Brazil in the quarter-final wasn’t as bad as first feared will have been music to the ears of Holland coach Bert Van Mariwjk, although the supremely talented Arsenal striker has just one World Cup goal to his name thus far. He is, nonetheless, a gifted player and one whom can win any game with one swift strike of his left-foot, so to have his services in the semi-final is a massive boost. Defender Joris Mathijsen has also been confirmed as fit and available for selection after limping onto the bench just minutes before kick-off in the game with Brazil, meaning Andre Ooijer had to step in. The latter played exceptionally well considering and could retain his place. For Gregory Van Der Wiel and Nigel De Jong however, they can only watch from afar as the pair serve a one-game suspension after both picked up a caution against Brazil in their last game.
While all the talk afterwards was about Holland’s stunning comeback against the then tournament favourites, you cannot ignore for one minute the dreadful start they endured. The Dutch were so bad in the opening 45 minutes it was beyond belief, barely at the races and hardly a blip on Brazil’s radar. They were fortunate Brazil didn’t race through the gears as Holland were stuck in Gear 1 and struggling. They did make amends in the second period, with Van Marwijk clearly having some harsh words to say at half-time as Holland woke from their slumber. But, however, were Holland to begin in a similar lethargic manner then there’s every chance Uruguay could land an early blow and against a Uruguay side which isn’t afraid nor ashamed to put plenty of ,men behind the ball and defend, that could land the Dutch in a spot of bother. So a bright start is imperative we feel from Holland.
Match Verdict: Holland to WIN – 1.67
It isn’t impossible to find a case for Uruguay as they are a resilient bunch, and when you have a forward as classy and composed as Uruguay do in Diego Forlan, you’ll always have a chance. However, Holland are a more rounded package for me, more accomplished in just about every position. It is, though, once again their line of forwards which ultimately decides it for me, as it’s easy to envisage Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder enjoying themselves against a team which does tend to give you enough time on the ball to do your thing. For us, it’s basically a case of if there big names turn up, those we just mentioned especially, then Holland should win. However, there is a great deal of pressure seeing as this is the semi-final of a World Cup, with a place in the final up for grabs, but you cannot ignore the mass amounts of talent and class inside the Holland camp. In our opinion, only Holland can throw this golden opportunity away, as this game is there for taken.