World Cup 2010 - Netherlands reach final

Eurosport - Tue, 06 Jul 22:30:00 2010

Wesley Sneijder scored his fifth goal of the tournament to help fire the Netherlands to their third World Cup final with a 3-2 victory over Uruguay.

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Giovanni Van Bronckhorst got the Oranje off to a perfect start with a sensational 18th-minute opener before Diego Forlan hit back with four first-half minutes remaining.

Sneijder edged the Netherlands ahead again in controversial fashion with 20 minutes left before Arjen Robben looked to have made the game safe three minutes later.

But Maximiliano Pereira's stoppage-time effort made for a tense final few minutes as a nervy Netherlands side held on.

The Netherlands progressed to the last four with a 100 per cent record and kicked off with confidence, happy to patiently keep the ball while looking for the opening.

It took just four minutes for a break to come, when Robben linked up with Sneijder and the Internazionale midfielder's cross was wastefully volleyed over by an unmarked Dirk Kuyt.

Despite their perfect run to the semi-finals, Bert van Marjwik's side have been criticised for their defensive style and slow build-up - but Van Bronckhorst opened the scoring in sensational style.

The Dutch captain, retiring from international football after this tournament, picked up the ball 35 yards out after a long spell of possession and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Fernando Muslera for just his sixth goal in 105 appearances.

Despite their bright start, the Netherlands failed to press on and a cagey period ensued where neither side could keep possession.

And, after a series of mistimed challenges, the game threatened to boil over when Sneijder reacted angrily to Martin Caceres' high challenge on Demy De Zeeuw, with the duo booked by referee Ravshan Irmatov.

Uruguay grew in stature but looked unlikely to make the breakthrough with former Manchester United striker Forlan and Edinson Cavani both drifting offside from dangerous positions.

Forlan took the game into his own hands when he picked up the ball from 35 yards, drifted past his marker with a change of direction and fired a powerful shot past Maarten Stekelenburg for his fourth goal of the tournament.

The controversial Jabulani ball has claimed its victims in South Africa but Stekelenburg should have done better, tricked by a slight swerve and palming the ball into the roof of the net.

Despite being the masters of total football, the Dutch have never won the World Cup, losing to West Germany and Argentina in the final in 1974 and 1978 respectively.

And the Oranje, their ideal start long forgotten, looked far from a side ready reach the last two again as Irmatov blew up for half-time.

Uruguay emerged from the break ready to seize the initiative and nearly went ahead when Stekelenburg rushed from goal to clear and gifted the ball to Alvaro Pereira, whose long distance effort, with Stekelenburg stranded, was headed clear.

Oscar Tabarez's side looked the more likely to score and Forlan saw his superb 67th minute free-kick well saved low at the near post by Ajax shot stopper Stekelenburg.

But the Netherlands looked dangerous on the break and nearly scored when Mark Van Bommel's low shot was pushed into the path of Robben, who fired high and wide.

It took a helping hand from the officials for the Netherlands to get back in front when the linesman allowed Sneijder's deflected goal to stand despite a marginally offside Robin van Persie, who jumped over the shot, appearing to block Muslera's line of sight.

That goal rattled Uruguay and the Netherlands soon opened up a two-goal lead when Kuyt, in acres of space on the left, delivered an expert ball to Robben who headed in off the post with pin-point accuracy.

The Netherlands will need to play better if they are to lift the trophy and Pereira's deflected goal from the edge of the area in the first added minute had the Oranje Army clinging on.

But Van Marwijk's troops now have a chance to end their World Cup hoodoo against Germany or Spain on July 11.

Match stats:

Uruguay v Netherlands

Goals 2-3

1st Half Goals 1-1

Shots on Target 6-7

Shots off Target 4-3

Blocked Shots 3-2

Corners 4-5

Fouls 15-16

Offsides 4-5

Yellow Cards 2-3

Red Cards 0-0

Passing Success 71.4%-80%

Tackles 26-17

Tackles Success 61.5%-76.5

Possession 44.2%-55.8&

Territorial Advantage 49.6%-50.4%

George Scott / Eurosport

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