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Netherlands storms into final
By Mike Corder
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 07 - 07 - 2010

The Netherlands turned on the style in the second half to reach its third World Cup final – and first in 32 years – with a 3-2 victory over Uruguay Tuesday.
Wesley Sneijder scored his fifth goal in South Africa and Giovanni van Bronckhorst added one of the goals of the tournament. Arjen Robben also scored as the Dutch never looked troubled despite a late onslaught from the two-time champion from South America.
The win has ensured that a European team will lift the World Cup on a foreign continent for the first time.
Germany or Spain, who play the second semifinal in Durban Wednesday, will meet Netherlands in the second successive all-European final after Italy beat France penalties four years ago in Germany.
Brazil and Argentina are the only teams to have won the trophy on a foreign continent with Brazil successful in Sweden in 1958, Mexico 1970, the United States in 1994 and Japan in 2002, while Argentina won in Mexico in 1986.
A European victory in Sunday's final at Soccer City, Johannesburg, means they will have 10 World Cup successes, one more than South America.
The tournament was first contested in 1930.
“This is unforgettable,” Sneijder said. “It was a tough fight and toward the end we complicated matters. Sunday we play in the World Cup final. I have to get used to that.”
Van Bronckhorst scored with a 35-meter shot in the 18th minute, but Diego Forlan equalized in the 41st with his fourth goal of the tournament, a stunning long-range shot.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk replaced Demy de Zeeuw with Rafael van der Vaart at halftime and the attacking move paid off as Sneijder and Robben scored after the break.
Maximiliano Pereira scored for Uruguay in injury time but the Dutch weathered the late Uruguayan pressure, and the Orange-clad fans at Green Point Stadium erupted at the final whistle.
“This is very special,” said Van Marwijk, who took over as coach two years ago. “After 32 years we play the final again. Such a small country. We can be very proud of this.” Most of the jubilant Dutch squad returned to the field 45 minutes after the match to dance and cheer with a group of about 1,000 orange-clad fans cheering and beating drums.
The Netherlands' only international title came at the 1988 European Championship, but it is now on a 25-match unbeaten run and has won 10 straight as it heads to a World Cup final.
Seen as beautiful footballers but perennial underachievers on the world stage, the Netherlands has played a tougher brand of football in South Africa, aiming to dominate possession and wait for openings rather than carve open defenses with creative flair.
“I love attacking and beautiful football, but you have to work together when the opponent has the ball and then you can go a long way,” Van Marwijk said.
It has served the team well – the Netherlands is the only team with a perfect record at the World Cup.
“We are so close,” said Sneijder, who already won the Italian league and cup double and the Champions League this season with Inter Milan. “There is nothing bigger than the World Cup.”
For Van Bronckhorst, who is ending his playing career after the World Cup, it was his first goal of the tournament and only the sixth of his 105-match international career.
He said before the match that he wanted the Dutch to play more beautiful football, and the Netherlands captain showed the way with his stunning goal.
After a flowing passing move, he collected the ball 30 meters out on the left and hit a searing drive that beat the despairing dive of Fernando Muslera and flew into the net off the post.
Forlan's equalizer was another powerful long-range shot, but Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg should have saved it.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said Forlan played throughout the match with an injury and he was finally forced to substitute him in the 85th minute.
“From the first minute he had a problem. I'm not dumb enough to take him out at 3-1 when the match wasn't lost,” Tabarez said. “He was injured and could not continue.”
The Dutch put the match out of Uruguay's reach with two goals in quick succession in the second half. Sneijder's low shot in the 70th was deflected by Pereira and past Muslera. Then Robben leapt to head home a cross from the left by Dirk Kuyt three minutes later.
“The Dutch can create a goal from any situation,” said Tabarez, whose team had conceded only two goals heading into the match. The Netherlands, which lost in the 1974 and ‘78 finals, was appearing in the World Cup semifinals for the first time since losing on penalties to Brazil in 1998. It was Uruguay's first appearance in the final four since 1970. Uruguay won the title in 1930 and again in 1950.


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