Uruguay took the longest, most difficult route to the World Cup, the last to qualify in South American and only after winning a playoff. No wonder they wanted to stick around so long. Let’s also give Holland its due: this team deserves its spot in the World Cup final. Holland has run the table in both qualifying and in the World Cup. But its 3-2 win over Uruguay was marked by both greatness and good fortune on the field.
The greatness was in a goal by Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, an astonishing left footed smash from some 35 yards out that went in off the far post. If that’s not the goal of the tournament, we are in for something really special. Von B’s goal was almost matched by Uruguay’s remarkable and relentless Diego Forlan, who sent two defenders in the wrong direction with a head fake, turned onto his left and hit a bender that Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg could only parry into the net.
But the game turned with Wesley Sneijder’s deflected strike in the 73rd minute, one that had to go through Robin Van Persie, who may have been standing in an offside position and clearly tried to play the ball. ESPN’s commentators immediately questioned the non-call, but the goal stood. And so did the Dutch, barely. Arjen Robben got Holland a third goal with a nice header, since there was no way he was going to score with his feet. The Uruguayans had nullified him all game by forcing him to use his almost useless right foot.
Yet there was one more surprise left in this Uruguay team, with Maxi Pereira’s injury-time strike turning the last minutes of the game into wet-your-pants time for Holland’s defenders. The 3-2 scoreline seems like a fair result, but it does nothing to make you rate Holland the favorite in the final—which for the Dutch is probably a good thing.