Semi Final – I
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
July 7, 2010, 12:00 AM IST
Before the tournament kicked off, very few people would have expected such a semi final line-up. Although Netherlands have quite a few renowned player in their ranks, they are considered to be the eternal chokers in the biggest stage of world football. On the other hand, apart from Forlan and Suarez, the Uruguayan squad has largely been an unknown entity for the football fans all over the world, till the tournament began.
Uruguay, the sole survivors from the South American continent, have exceeded everyone’s expectations by securing a last-four berth. The La Celeste had to battle hard to progress this far, sinking a resolute South Korean side 2-1 in the round of sixteen, and fighting against the hopes of an entire continent to defeat Ghana on penalty shootout in the quarters.
The biggest concern for Oscar Tabarez in this semi final clash would be the unavailability of the suspended Luis Suarez, who had been instrumental to his side’s success in this campaign thus far. The key strength for the team lies in their resolute defensive display, which has conceded just two goals so far in this World Cup. But the source of Uruguayan strength seems to be getting depleted with a couple of injury crisis. Nicolas Lodeiro is out of the world cup with a fractured leg; Diego Lugano may not be able to make it tonight, after having to go off early into the quarterfinal clash with a knee injury.In the absence of Suarez, Sebastian “Crazy” Abreu will share the attacking responsibilities with Diego Forlan. Oscar Tabarez is expected to go in with a 4-3-1-2 strategy, with Scotti replacing Diego Lugano at the central defense.
Netherlands are high on confidence after the victory against Brazil, but the unavailability of Van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong due to their second consecutive booking will keep coach Marwijk under a little bit pressure. Khalid Boulahrouz will step in for Van der Wiel at the right back position, while either Rafael Van der Vaart or Demy de Zeeuw will be the replacement for de Jong. The positive news for the Dutch camp is a fit again Robin Van Persie, who sustained an elbow injury in the quarter final clash against Brazil. Joris Mathijsen is all set to make his comeback after missing out on the Brazilian encounter. The Dutch’s hopes of progressing to the final will depend heavily on Wesley Sneijder, who is in red hot touch off-late, and the proven match winner is expected to take a pivotal role in this key encounter as well.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record: In their sole world cup encounter between the two nations in 1974, Netherlands came up victorious by a 2-0 margin.
Player to watch out for: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Having recovered from an injury, Arjen Robben will be the main threat for Uruguay tonight. It seems the flying Dutchman is on a mission to make amends for his unavailability in the first couple of matches in this campaign, due to injury. It can be predicted to be a difficult day on the field for the Uruguayan defense, especially the left flank, with Robben all set to tear apart any defensive lapse with his trademark marauding runs.
Key player battles: Diego Forlan (Uruguay) vs John Heitinga (Netherlands)
The former Atletico Madrid team mates are in for an absorbing battle. John Heitinga has hardly put a foot wrong throughout the tournament and he knows it very well that in the absence of Luis Suarez, if he can prevent the dangerous Forlan from scoring, Dutch would have a foot in the finals. Forlan, on the other hand, is wary of the fact that Suarez would not be there to support him in this match and the responsibility entirely lies with him to get past Heitinga and co.