Dutch treated to first berth in final in 32 years
Players, fans party like they won trophy after holding on in semis
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The World Cup semifinal had been over for nearly an hour, tens of thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans were on their way to the waterfront to celebrate the Netherlands’ 3-2 win over Uruguay, and the small band of Uruguayans who had shown up were headed there, too, to drown their sorrows.
All of a sudden, the victorious Dutch team ran out of the tunnel and back onto the field to party some more. Players danced and sang and thanked the diehard 1,000or-so fans still in the stands, who were banging drums and chanting “Holland! Holland!”
Some of the players rode on other players’ shoulders. They took photographs and recorded the moment on video cameras. Meanwhile, back in Amsterdam, a crowd of nearly 50,000 celebrated in Museum Square.
It’s hard to blame the Dutch for being so excited. They are headed to their first World Cup final in 32 years, and they will be seeking their first-ever title against the winner of today’s semifinal between three-time World Cup champion Germany and reigning
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“If you win the final, you make yourself immortal, at least in our country,” winger Arjen Robben said.
Reaching the final is quite a feat for the Netherlands, a soccer-mad nation that has been let down time and again by talented teams notorious for self-destructing at big tournaments.
This Dutch team has shown no signs that it will cave when it matters most, winning all eight qualifying matches and all six games at this World Cup thus far. The Dutch are unbeaten in 25 matches. Although Oranje didn’t look spectacular against La Celeste, and didn’t come alive until the second half, they managed to go ahead 3-1 before Maxi Pereira made it 3-2 in stoppage time with a nice curling shot.
Captain Giovanni Van Bronckhorst got things going with a 30-yard firecracker of a shot that skimmed Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s outstretched fingertips in the 18th minute. Not to be outdone, Uruguay star Diego Forlan cranked one in off his left foot from just beyond 25 feet to tie it 1-1 in the 41st minute. It was his fourth goal of the tournament.
Uruguay, the last South American team standing, the surprise semifinalist from a nation of just 3.3 million people, was 45 minutes from making its first final in 60 years.
But the Dutch were too strong. Uruguay was also missing four key players — two to suspensions and two to injuries.
Wesley Sneijder and Robben scored three minutes apart in the second half to send the Dutch to their first final since losing to Argentina in 1978. That was the golden age of Dutch soccer, but those teams ran up against the host countries in the 1974 and 1978 finals. This team won’t be at that kind of disadvantage.
“This is unforgettable,” said Sneijder. “It was a tough fight and toward the end we complicated matters. Sunday we play in the World Cup final. I have to get used to that. You must savor it because it’s not something that comes around the corner very often.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez took Forlan out in the 85th minute because his right thigh was hurting.
“From the first minute he had a problem. I’m not dumb enough to take him out at 3-1 when the match wasn’t lost,” Tabarez said. “He was injured and could not continue.
“The Dutch can create a goal from any situation,” said Tabarez, whose team had conceded only two goals heading into the match.
“Those were beautiful goals for football but rather unexpected for us.”
John Heitinga, front right, carries Netherlands teammate Wesley Sneijder as players celebrate behind them. Sneijder scored a second-half goal.