When we talk about South American teams, we usually mean Argentina or Brazil. No one ever thinks about Uruguay even though Uruguay won the very first World Cup. This time Uruguay have made people sit up and pay attention. Their win over Ghana which assured them a place in the Semi-Finals was undoubtedly the most dramatic of this World Cup. Since Uruguay have outlasted Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay in the tournament they are South America’s only hope to win the 2010 World Cup. No one could have guessed that La Celeste who qualified for this year’s competition after winning a play-off against Costa Rica would be only one win away from a place in the single biggest football match, the World Cup Final. Uruguay haven’t even made it to the final since 1950 and Oscar Tabarez’s team wants to change that. Netherlands on the other hand, like Spain, have always had a talented team but failed to achieve real glory. Oranje haven’t been past the semis in 32 years after having made it to consecutive finals in 1974 and 1978 where they lost to West Germany and Argentina respectively. Usually, its Brazil that bursts the Oranje bubble but this time the Dutch have already sent the Brazilians packing and will therefore feel this to be their best chance in a long time, to win the World Cup.
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Uruguay is a small nation steeped in football history. They play a game which is more scrappy and physical and quite unlike the quintessential flamboyant South American ‘samba’ style of football. They qualified for the knockout stages as winners of Group A by drawing against France and beating South Africa and Mexico. It was in the knock-out stages in their game against Ghana where things took a turn for the dramatic for Uruguay. In the first half of stoppage time, Ghana scored and it looked like Uruguay were going back home. However,Diego Forlan had other ideas and leveled the score in the second half of stoppage time by netting one for the South Americans. In the last minute of added time however, Ghana struck again but this time, Luis Suarez handled the ball on the line but stopping a sure shot goal. Suarez was sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty. Once again, it looked certain that the South Americans were on their way out. However, Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan missed and the game went to a penalty shoot with Uruguay still hanging on. And then, La Celeste broke Ghanaian hearts and won 5-3 on penalty kicks.
It is this kind of ‘never-die-spirit’ that can once again be expected from Uruguay today. Oscar Tabarez has so far been able to select a steady team but today he will be without the suspended Luis Suarez and Jorge Fucile. Diego Lugano, who went off early in the game against Ghana with a knee problem is also unlikely to star in today’s game. However, defender Diego Godin has recovered from his injury and will be available for today’s match. Tabarez will most likely go with a 4-4-2 formation with Fernando Muslera in goal and Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Godin, Maurice Victorino and Martin Caceres forming Uruguay back four. In the midfield, Egidio Arévalo Ríos and Walter Gargano will hold the midfield and shield the back four. Alvaro Pereira and Diego Perez will provide width when they can. Edinson Cavani will partner Diego Forlan up front in leading Uruguay’s attack.
Uruguay want to win this game bad and they have a great defence and are dangerous up front. They will put up a great fight and cannot be taken lightly.
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Netherlands are yet to lose a game in South Africa and dutch striker Wesley Sneijder is the joint-highest scorer at the World Cup. Oranje beat favourites Brazil 2-1 in their last match to progress to the quarterfinals. All these stats point to a very strong World Cup campaign so far and yet many still feel that Netherlands are still not in top gear. They definitely seem to be the team that will peak at absolutely the right time. They go into this game as favourites and are expected to beat Uruguay. However, the same was expected of the Dutch in their Euro 2008 quarter- final match against Russia which they lost in extra time. Today, Netherlands must avoid complacency or once again it could become their undoing.
The Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk, has a formidable record of 13 wins from 13 games in competitive matches and will want to keep it that way. He will be without the suspended Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong and will most likely replace them with Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy de Zeeuw. Luckily for Netherlands, Robin Van Persie’s elbow injury wasn’t serious and neither was Joris Mathijsen’s knee-problem and both of the players are expected to star in today match. Marwijk will most likely go with his favourite 4-2-3-1 formation with Maarten Stekelenburg in goal and John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz at the back. Demy De Zeeuw and Mark van Bommel will hold midfield for Holland. Robin Van Persie will play alone up-front with offensive midfielders Dirk Kuyt, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder behind him.
Netherlands will look to control the ball and the pace of the game with Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben making life very tough for the Uruguan defence while the Dutch defender John Heitinga will look to keep his former club mate from Athletico Madrid Diego Forlan from scoring for Uruguay.
Uruguay are without Luis Suarez and that tips the balance in Netherlands favour. However, Netherlands is without Nigel De Jong, whose tackles will be sorely (pun unintended!) missed. Netherlands must keep focus to win today.
“We will certainly not throw in the towel before playing that match. Holland will be very difficult but not impossible.” – Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay manager
“Uruguay didn’t reach the final for nothing, so we have to really focus again and not think that we’re already there.” – Bert van Warwijk, Netherlands manager
Stars to Watch Out For
Uruguay: Diego Forlan, Diego Perez, Edinson Cavani
Netherlands: Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie
These sides have met on four occasions in total, with Uruguay winning three matches and the Dutch one.
Three of Diego Forlán’s four goals in World Cup finals history have come from outside the box
Wesley Sneijder has now scored five goals in his last seven internationals