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Match Report NED v URU

I’m having a hard time coming to grips with a World Cup Final for the Dutch. I’m certainly very proud but I would not have predicted this after the first couple group games. The Dutch have been flat at times, unimpressive and yet somehow they’ve been the most successful team that remains in the tournament. Both Germany and Spain participated in the series of first round shocks; Germany losing to Serbia and Spain losing to Switzerland. But they made it and on the balance of of their consistency, the apparent luck following the squad, and the determination displayed versus Brazil they certainly deserve to be there 

With first choice right-back van der Wiel and the excellent midfielder de Jong out due to suspension Khalid ‘the Cannibal’ Boulahrouz came in to defense and Demy de Zeeuw started in midfield. The first half was quite defensive from Uruguay and the Netherlands created very little in the way of chances. Uruguay’s strategy seemed to be to defensively counteract the Dutch strategy and look to Forlan and Cavani to create by themselves. That isn’t meant as a slight towards Uruguay: with a player like Forlan and considering Uruguay’s suspension/injury concerns it was a very shrewd plan by Tabarez that paid dividends 

There were three notable moments in the first half. The first was van Bronckhorst’s opening goal. I sent out a tweet shortly afterwards saying that I recalled a similar, though less spectacular, goal he scored for the Netherlands against Argentina in a friendly eight or nine years ago. The ball typically moving across the Dutch front players and being played to space for van Bronckhorst who took a touch in stride and blistered the ball into the far right hand corner via the post. The commentator at the time described it as a “snorter” and that it was.  

The second moment was notable for a few loose teeth when Caceres attempted an overhead kick on the top of the box. In doing so he connected perfectly with Demy de Zeeuw’s face. He was replaced at half time by van der Vaart and then taken to hospital. According to reports afterwards he did not suffer a broken jaw as initially suspected and was only left with a few loose teeth.  

In a true case of “anything you can do I can do better” Forlan stepped up and stroked a beautiful curling effort from 25 yards past Stekelenburg. At the interval the scoreline was fair though on a personal note I felt sick and was wondering if this would be the final act in a thus far successful campaign. 

The second half didn’t do anything to help my nerves and Uruguay to their immense credit execute their game plan brilliantly and only through a goal by Sneijder suspected to be offside did the game swing towards the Dutch. Sticking my neck out for Sneijder, I don’t believe the goal was offside. Whether van Persie was active or inactive it doesn’t matter. Van Persie was very very close to his marker with only his leg actually being offside at the time the ball was played. The common interpretation of the rule is the “benefit of the doubt” should be given to the attacker and in this case as van Persie’s only action was to get out of the way the goal was correctly given. On a related note the Valdez goal for Paraguay against Spain should have stood for the very same reason. 

From that point on the Celeste had a very difficult task ahead of them and were not able to put away any of their chances. Robben’s headed goal from the outstanding Kuyt’s cross effectively killed the game. Uruguay did keep coming though and on the balance of the 90 minutes you could argue that they deserved the second goal. Their goal came from a wonderfully worked free kick and game them hope. 

Past that goal you would expect a minute or so of remaining extra time. Curiously in the 94th minute the referee appeared to blow the whistle and successfully confused the teams, the cameramen who rushed onto the pitch and the commentators alike. He did not in fact blow for full time but instead decided to book Mark van Bommel with a pointless yellow card and allow a further minute and a half of added time during which Uruguay laid seige to the Dutch penalty area. Ultimately they couldn’t find the equaliser and putting aside the bizarre ending to the game the Dutch came through another test and march onto the Final on Sunday. 

I’ll be very glad to have van der Wiel back in place of the liability that is Boulahrouz who fouls repeatedly but isn’t sneaky enough to get away with it like van Bommel. I will also be happy to see the return of #8 de Jong. While de Zeeuw ably deputized de Jong has been the most influential player, yes more so than Sneijder, and has consistently propped up the team.  

I can’t decide who I’d rather play in the final. A part of me would choose Spain because they’ve been misfiring and are frustratable (I may have invented a word) by defending well. On the other hand Germany might be preferable because they are not the organized, passing, possession opponents that could stifle the Netherlands. From what I’ve seen of Germany they seem to be playing a counterattacking brand inspired by Schweinsteiger. I have a growing suspicion that de Jong and van Bommel might be able to shackle Khedira and ‘Schweini’ depriving Ozil of his supply. I may watch the replay of Germany/Serbia to see how its’ done. 

Player Ratings 

Stekelenburg – 6 

Boulahrouz – 5 

Heitinga – 6 

Mathijsen – 6 

van Bronckhorst – 7 

de Zeeuw – 6 

van Bommel – 7 

Kuyt – 9 

Sneijder – 8 

Robben – 7 

van Persie – 6 

Subs: van der Vaart – 6, Elia – 5

Our Opponents: Uruguay

Alright time for confession.  Everybody who thought the Oranje would get this far raise your hand!  Ya I thought not, well me neither so don’t feel bad.  Now everyone who thought Uruguay would get this far raise your hand!  Well I did actually but largely due to that side of the draw and the resulting fixtures.  Well done to them though as there is no such thing as an easy quarter-final. 

After Friday’s victory I saw a huge emergence of Dutch fans.  As soon as the final whistle sounded there were cars in the streets and fans on the sidewalks cheering and waving their flags.  I can’t recall ever seeing a display like this from the Dutch fans.

Both teams will be without some key players.  For Uruguay Luis Suarez will be missing because his intentional handball in the quarter-final.  It’s hard to downplay his significance as both he and Forlan have 3 goals a piece. For the Dutch Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel will be missing for picking up their second yellow cards against Brazil.  Boulahrouz is likely to deputize for van der Wiel and while de Jong’s replacement is less concrete it is likely to be Demy de Zeeuw.  Both players are significant in their own roles.  Nigel de Jong has been outstanding and, if you care to look, has consistently been among the best passers in the side.

I’ve unfortunately not seen much of Uruguay up to now but I’m fairly familiar with both the missing Suarez and Forlan.  From a neutral’s perspective you must enjoy Forlan’s determination to thrust Uruguay into the global reckoning.  For some reason is often stricken with an asterisk in terms of quality because of his unsuccessful spell in England though after the displays here it’s obvious what initially attracted Manchester United to the South American.

Up to this point and with the sole exception of last Friday every match they’ve encountered in the last two years has been with the Oranje firmly installed as expected winners.  For the first time the Oranje will enter a match with the added pressure that they could be on their way to…

Let’s agree that we won’t push our luck shall we?

Instead of worrying about what could be let’s just enjoy the highlights of a previous encounter with Uruguay, in 1974 to be exact.  The creator or at least the poster believes that is was the first true glimpse of what became known as Total Football.  One of the best things about this video is the offside trap played by the Dutch, the first example is already at 0:15 of the video and every Dutch player is within 2 meters of the half way line.  To call that aggressive is an understatement.