World Cup: Dutch Treat foils Oscar the Grouch

Holland 3, Uruguay 2

Second half goals from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben sent Holland into Sunday’s final in Johannesburg. Uruguay’s manager folded the tent too soon.

Long-range left-footed blasts from Holland’s Gio v. Bronckhorst on 18 minutes and Diego Forlan on 41 minutes cancelled each other out in the first half. The Dutch looked more dangerous and had more of the ball, but the teams left for halftime even.

The goal scorers’ career arcs are in different spots. 35-year-old Dutch captain Gio is retiring after this World Cup, having won major trophies at Arsenal and Barcelona and now having earned 105 caps for his country. Forlan’s career is entering a renaissance: after a bust spell at Manchester United, Forlan resurrected matters in Spain first at Villarreal and then at Atletico Madrid. Forlan has been on fire in this World Cup and Atlety will surely struggle to keep him. Forlan led Atlety to the Europa League title this year, but that’s realistically as far as Atlety can go.

Holland always looked the better team and midway through the second half the Dutch seemed to seal it with goals three minutes apart. Sneijder scored on 68 minutes, with the ball deflecting through a maze of players. Robin v. Persie may have been offside (no flag) but may have been played back on by a deflection. (That off-side rant entry is coming in this space one day, I promise you.) There was no doubt about the third as Robben latched onto the end of a beautiful Dirk Kuyt cross in open play to head home for 3-1.

Like I said, Holland looked the better team all day—but Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez was too disheartened, subbing off Forlan on 83 minutes. Forlan was Uruguay’s most dangerous man, and though they looked 1000/1 to tie matters up, Maxi Pereira knocked in a shot from 16 yards in stoppage time to make matters interesting—and Forlan was unavailable for the final thrust. Could he have conjured an equalizer? Unlikely for sure, but we’ll never know now. Bad management.

The Uzbek ref handed out five yellow cards but with the amnesty kicking in after the quarterfinals, no one is suspended for the weekend. Luiz Suarez, who fisted that ball off the line at the death vs. Ghana, has not had anything added to his one-match ban, and is eligible for the third-place game Saturday in Port Elizabeth.