Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Holland v Uruguay

Holland 3 Van Bronckhorst 18, Sjneider 70, Robben 73
Uruguay 2 Forlan 41, Pereira 90 + 2

For many people, the most memorable thing about Uruguay until the Ghana game was the Homer Simpson scene. You remember, the one where he spins a globe and says Hey, look, there's a country called U R Gay!

The Homer erotic Uruguay may now have been superseded in the popular imagination by the Uruguay of cheating Suarez, but they were still in a semifinal of the World Cup. The last time England did that was twenty years ago. And at the end they were one decent strike away from taking Holland to extra time.

The first half was unremarkable except for the goals, both of which came out of the blue. For Holland's opener, Van Bronckhorst hit a shot from 40 yards for no good reason. I just had time to think oh you twat for wasting the opportunity before it sailed past the keeper and into the back of the net. Oh well, shows what I know.

Forlan clearly felt he wanted to leave us with something to remember him by as well. He got onto a loose pass just before the break, feinted right, went left, got a yard or two of space and hit it. Stekelenberg got a hand on it, and really ought to have kept it out, but didn't. One one at half time.

For the first twenty minutes of the second half, the favourites looked vulnerable. They couldn't string passes together, their first touches let them down, the obvious ball eluded them. At times they seemed to playing a game of their own invention called Ever Decreasing Circles, in which each player spins through 180 degrees then plays a shorter ball than the one before, ignoring both the blue shirts swarming into his path and the orange ones begging for the ball out by the touchline.

Suddenly, like great teams do, they got it together. Their first proper chance in an age fell to Van Der Vaart, after the hitherto anonymous Van Persie had collected a long ball on the edge of the box and put him in. Muslera saved his shot well, but it ran kindly for Robben. With everyone holding their breath Robben shot wildly over, but it felt like a momentum shift was underway.

Five minutes later they scored, perhaps a little controversially. Sjneider's shot deflected slightly off the leg of Maxi Pereira, and went under Van Persie's legs and in. He was (just) offside when the shot was taken, and was clearly interfering with play even though he never actually touched it, so it shouldn't really have been allowed. No-one who saw the end of the Ghana game cared about that though.

And there was nothing controversial about the third. It was straightforward enough, but brilliantly executed. A Kuyt cross came to Robben in the box, just slightly behind him, and he leaned back just enough to get his head into the right position to angle the ball in off the far post. If the cross had come to him more easily, the defender could have got in a challenge, but as things were it was unplayable.

The game seemed dead from that point, with twenty minutes left. Tabarez took Alvaro Pereira off, replacing him with Abreu. Then he swapped Forlan for Fernandez, a strange decision which seemed like the height of folly when they got a free kick in injury time, in a position which Forlan would normally have shot from.

But Gargano didn't strike for goal. He played a surprise short ball to Maxi Pereira, who shot under the blocking defenders' legs, past the keeper and in. Suddenly, for the last two minutes, it was game on.

Uruguay knocked a couple of crosses in, and one of them nearly broke to Arevalo, but as things turned out there was nothing doing. Van Bommel was booked for dissent, but at this stage that means nothing. Uruguay slink off home, there to work up a head steam over the Sjneider goal which will for ever annoy 2.5 million people while briefly amusing five billion, and Holland are in the final.

I'll type that again. Holland. Are. In. The. Final. Told you.

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