06 July 2010

Holland 3-2 Uruguay

Bouhlarouz Heitinga Mathijsen Van Bronckhorst
Van Bommel de Zeeuw
Robben Sneijder Kuyt
Van Persie

MPereira Godin Victorino Caceres
Perez Gargano Arevalo APereira
Cavani Forlan

van Bronckhorst 18'
Forlan 41'
Sneijder 70'
Robben 73'
MPereira 90+2'

Yet another match with a heavy dose of refeereeing controversy. And a bit of late drama just to stay true to form.

The first half ebbed and flowed, with both sides scoring when in the ascendency, but both were long-range strikes with a bit of fortune about them. Stekelenburg got his positioning wrong on Forlan's swerving equalizer, while I'd bet Gio van Bronckhorst couldn't replicate his firecracker on a bet.

Despite, or perhaps because of, Holland being favorites, a level scoreline adequately reflected the match at halftime. The Netherlands were on top early on, with some lovely interplay between the front four and chances for Kuyt and Sneijder, before van Bronckhorst's brilliant 30-yard strike from outside the left corner of the box. It's definitely up there for goal of the tournament.

But the Dutch began sitting deeper, undoubtedly aided by Uruguay resiliently fighting back, and the tide turned around the half-hour mark, soon after handbags between the sides when Caceres clocked de Zeeuw in the chin dangerously attempting a bicycle kick. Alvaro Pereira tested Sketelenburg with a low bouncer and Forlan headed high and wide before the Netherlands defense backed off the Atletico striker in the 41st minute, giving him the space to rocket yet another swinging shot into the net, aided by Sketelenburg initially stepping the wrong way. It was a nice bit of similarity that both goals came from the captains.

Ostensibly reverting to Holland's "usual" emphasis on attack after halftime, van Marwijk sent on van der Vaart for de Zeeuw – an attacking midfielder for a holding midfielder. But as Honigstein reminded in his brilliant column yesterday, it wasn't out-of-character for this Dutch side; Holland made a similar substitution at Euro 2008, bringing on Robben for Engelaar. To quote directly from the piece:
"We gave ourselves space to go forward [on the counter] that way," Van Basten said. This was, in other words, not about simplistic labels like attack or defense, and certainly not about Cruyff's old concepts.
It took about 15 minutes for van der Vaart and Holland to find their feet, with Uruguay packing the center of the pitch brilliantly (and before which van Bronckhorst had to clear off the line following Bouhlarouz's sloppy backpass), but Clockwork Orange were back ahead 10 minutes after regaining the momentum. Pity it came from yet another arguable decision, if not egregious error, from a linesman.

After a sustained build-up, van Persie laid the ball off to his left, with Kuyt leaving it for Sneijder. The perpetual dangerman danced into space, seeing his shot deflected past Muslera. The only problem was van Persie standing in the keeper's line of vision, and although he got out of the way of the ball, probably should have been ruled active and offside, just behind the last defender. It was a lot closer than Tevez's first against Mexico, but it's still generously labeled as dubious at best.

And it knocked the wind out of Uruguay, with Holland seemingly hammering the nail in the coffin three minutes later. Kuyt, taking advantage of space out wide, cut back onto his preferred foot and sent in a perfect cross for Robben – slightly behind the attacker, allowing the Munich man to free himself from his marker. Still, it was a colossal header from the winger, redirecting it with a ton of power off the inside of the far post.

That should have been game over, and until the dying minutes, it looked like it was. Holland delivered a masterclass in keeping possession – the highest compliment I can pay is that it looked like Spain with a lead – only they couldn't find a fourth despite having chances on the break. But Uruguay forced a furious end to the game, coincidentally (I'm sure) after Elia replaced Robben in the 89th minute. Holland – van Bommel, obviously – conceded a late free kick, Elia gave Maxi Pereira too much space when it was played short to him, and the fullback curled a low shot into the far corner. Three minutes of injury time soon became five, but, thankfully, the Dutch finally held on by the fingernails. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the last last-ditch clearing tackle in the box came from Kuyt.

Well played to the Dutch – making their first World Cup final since 1978 – to ensure an all-European affair (outside of Europe, I might add), but it seems necessary to start the kudos with Uruguay. No one expected them to be here. As painful as it is to admit, Forlan's has a shout at being the player of the tournament, up there with Schweinsteiger, Villa, and Sneijder (and Kuyt!). They – well, Forlan – once again came back from a deficit, and truly frightened at the end. The central midfield conceded little space, and a makeshift rearguard – including Barcelona outcast Caceres up against Robben – was outstanding despite conceding thrice.

But yet again, Holland win fortunately and ugly, with some superlative individual performances. Both Robben and Sneijder scored, Kuyt got another assist and ran his socks off. Yet again – outside of Mathijsen fooled by Forlan with poor positioning from Stekelenburg on the same play, and Elia going to sleep on a late free kick – the defense outplayed their reputations.

Holland has been both lucky and good, and that's what wins tournaments. They certainly deserve to be playing on Sunday.


Earl said...

What does Van Bommel have to do to get a card? He fouled in the buildup to the wondergoal too, but I could see missing that one. He earned about 4 cards during the Brazil match, and should have had 1 yesterday. I don't mean the one he got later for kicking the ball in celebration by mistake, that was ridiculous. During the Brazil match Effen asked what does Van Bommel have to do to get a card, kick the referee? I'm all for physical play, but he's the teflon don apparently. I see now you've covered this on twitter, oops.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the goal was off-side because it took slight deflections off two Uruguay defenders. As far I as know touches off defenders would negate the off-side position.

nate said...

Sorry, you're wrong, Anonymous. It has to be an intentional touch for the offside to be negated. Similar rule as back-passes; why the keeper can pick it up when tackled/knocked away from an attacker.

nate said...

And yeah, van Bommel somehow avoiding a card until the late booking for dissent was almost hilarious. I missed it in real time, but his foul in the build-up to van Bronckhorst's goal could and should have been red.

tobi said...

Holland bumbles through the tournament.

After that match yesterday, Holland does not deserve to play on sunday. Such a fortunate win, such a weak football and such a luck of the draw with only Brazil as a good team to beat - I hope they lose to either Germany oder Spain. The Van Bommel issue ist critical, how can somebody like him, who is known for hard fouls , just get one yellow card in the whole tounament? After watching all Holland games, i do not understand this! Hope that today the better(!) team will win the match, not the team with the "referee support" or with the offside goals.

Matt said...

Not going to lie, I'm pulling for the Dutch, so maybe I'm a little biased.

Tobi, I think you are being a little harsh on Holland. You gripe about the offsides goals, but every team must deal with that. Look at the US, two goals disallowed, but those kinds of things happen in every game. What about Uruguay? If any team didn't "deserve" to even be in the semis, it would be Uruguay. Ghana, should have won, but for Suarez's hand of God impression. No team has "referee support." There have been some very poor decisions by the referees, but they are trying to be the best, impartial judges of the game they can be.

As far as the Dutch getting a fortunate win with weak football and only one good team to beat, every team from the quarters on is a good team, or they wouldn't be there. Yes, some play better, and more beautiful, football, but every team is good.

What can I say, but the Dutch have been good enough. They have taken their chances, and taken them well.