Cape Town: A Dutch treat: The Netherlands is in the World Cup final.
Long wasteful with its soccer talent, the Netherlands sure has has found the right touch in this tournament.
Dutch stars Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scored three minutes apart in the second half as the Netherlands beat Uruguay 3-2 on Tuesday night to advance to their first championship match since losing in 1978 to Argentina.
Winners of all six games in South Africa, the Oranje will face either Germany or Spain in Sunday’s title game at Soccer City in Johannesburg. The Netherlands lost its other appearance in the final, to West Germany in 1974.
Both of those title-game defeats came during the golden period of Dutch soccer, and in the opposition’s homeland. No such worries this time, and no country outside of Africa has had as much fan support as the Netherlands.
Indeed, Green Point Stadium looked like a Florida orange grove. Outside the stadium, a Netherlands fan in a blue and white bodysuit stood on stilts and played a vuvuzela — badly. It was about the only thing that didn’t measure up for the Dutch.
And a tournament that looked like a South American fiesta early on will end in a European showdown for the second straight World Cup. Sneijder and Robben made sure of that.
Sneijder’s goal came somewhat unexpectedly because Uruguay had shut down the Dutch offense for much of the second half. His left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area barely ticked the leg of defender Maximiliano Pereira and, with Robin van Persie almost deflecting it again, it skidded past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Then Robben sent a cross from Dirk Kuyt past a flat-footed Muslera with a brilliant header as Robben was leaping away from the net. His teammates piled on in an Oranje Crush celebration, and Robben came up from it with mud on his forehead, a smile on his face — and the knowledge that Netherlands was ahead 3-1 and likely headed to the championship match.
For good measure, Robben blew kisses to the fans.
Pereira scored a late goal for Uruguay but the Netherlands’ defense held up for the final few minutes and the party was on.