Monday, July 5, 2010

World Cup 2010: Holland-Uruguay Semifinal Preview

Holland meet Uruguay in Cape Town in the first World Cup semifinal. The match pits two unlikely participants; Holland were twice runners-up 1974 and 1978, and last appeared in the semifinals in 1998. Uruguay won two of the first four World Cups, but haven't reached the final four in 40 years.

Wesley Sneijder elevated himself to Dutch legend status with his play against Brazil in the quarterfinals. His looping ball into the box became the own goal that got Holland level, and his header off a corner kick won the match. While Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are the focal points of the Dutch attack, the contributions of Dirk Kuyt have been critical to Holland's success. His non-stop engine has set up several scoring opportunities, including the flick-on header that found Sneijder last Friday.

While Holland's near-perfect second half was the highlight in the win over Brazil, the play that saved the match was a stunning one-handed save by Maarten Stekelenburg to deny Kaka late in the first half. If Stekelenburg gets beat for a 2-0 Brazil lead, Holland are already home. Instead they stand 90 minutes away from their third crack at the World Cup crown.

Overlooked in the post-game furor over Luis Suarez's intentional hand ball that saved the match against Ghana was the red card suspension that will cost Uruguay one of their top offensive threats. With Suarez gone, the pressure rest on Diego Forlan, whose majestic free kick leveled the quarterfinal match. With out his attack partner, may prove easier for the Dutch to contain.

A trip to the semifinals has given the Uruguay side a sense of proud accomplishment. The Dutch, meanwhile, feel that they're just getting started. Their march to an elusive title continues.

Prediction: Holland 1, Uruguay 0

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