Dutch treated to first berth in fi­nal in 32 years

Play­ers, fans party like they won tro­phy af­ter hold­ing on in semis

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Michelle Kauf­man

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

Con­tin­ued from C Euro­pean cham­pion Spain.

“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.”

Schalk van Zuydam AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

John Heitinga, front right, car­ries Nether­lands team­mate Wes­ley Snei­jder as play­ers cel­e­brate be­hind them. Snei­jder scored a sec­ond-half goal.

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