Tuesday, July 6, Green Point Stadium, Cape Town – Uruguay vs Netherlands
Uruguay, two time world champions, arrive to their biggest match in 40 years, since the semi final loss to Brazil in Mexico ’70. The Netherlands finally shrugged off and beat the Brazilians, making their first Semi since 1998, also facing Brazil, losing in penalties. Now, the only two undefeated teams left in the tournament, with the Dutch winning each of their 5 games in regulation and Uruguay still high on Suarez’ heroics but missing him tomorrow hope to recapture some heyday glory.
Uruguay aren’t favorites to win this match, especially with Suarez, who is joint top scorer (along with Forlan) for the South American side with 3 goals, one of only 3 players to score for Oscar Tabarez’ side, missing due to his last moment heroics/villainy against Ghana, getting suspended from the Semi Final. Still, Uruguay are far from an easy fixture – They have a tough defense, a tough midfield, led by the fantastic Diego Perez, who may be lacking some offensive skills but is just a solid rock in the middle of the park, and of course, they have Diego Forlan.
Forlan has been doing pretty much everything for Uruguay, with 3 goals and 1 assists and generally being the one who creates and starts everything on offense. Putting Cavani in to play alongside Suarez was a brilliant move by Tabarez, allowing Forlan to drop back behind them and build up plays, not limited to only finishing them. Now, without Suarez and Fucile (big problem at left back), Tabarez needs to either start Abreu or go with a more defensive approach, fattening the middle, where the Dutch have Sneijder, Van Bommel and De Jong.
The Netherlands have been looking far from impressive during the tournament, but always come up with just enough magic to make it through. They needed an own goal against Denmark, some bad goalkeeping against Japan and a little Robben doing his thing against Slovakia. Against Brazil it was again Sneijder, who seems intent on winning every title that’s in front of him in 2010, first with a fluke goal and then with the winning header. Still, the formula has been working well for the Oranje, favorites to make the final for the first time since 1978.
Statistically, the Dutch can rely on the fact that Uruguay haven’t beaten a European side in 40 years, managing six draws and seven losses since their 1-0 win over the Soviet Union in Mexico from a Victor Esparrago goal. Beyond the numbers, they do have the stronger side, a keeper in fine form and two aces who can finish the opposition with one opportunity. Countering this is the fact that No European team has ever won a World Cup outside of Europe, and with Uruguay being the only non-European team left…
Robben wasn’t brilliant against Brazil, but he hasn’t had two bad games in a row this season and with Uruguay missing their starting left back, he could prove to be a bit too much. Van Persie is having an awful tournament in South Africa, but is always dangerous, especially from set pieces. Kuyt will work hard and Van Bommel and De Jong are as reliable as can be in the middle.
Above all, is Wesley Sneijder. Most of the chances the Dutch create go through him, and besides being the side’s top scorer with four goals, he is the one who threatens the opposition the most, with 19 shots at goal so far. He’s having an amazing year and is tremendous form. Another good outing from the Inter man will mean a Final for Van Marwijk and his men, and maybe a golden trophy for Sneijder from FIFA at the end of the year.
Bottom line – Forlan has been fantastic in this tournament, maybe the best players of the World Cup so far, but so has Sneijder, and the Netherlands are doing just enough right things each match to keep winning. Uruguay won’t make it easy, but Diego Forlan just isn’t enough to beat a team like the Dutch by himself.