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Monday, July 5, 2010
WORLD CUP: Tuesday's semifinal preview

By Scott French

URUGUAY VS. NETHERLANDS

When: 11:30 a.m. PT. Where: Cape Town Stadium/Green Point Stadium (Cape Town)
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes and Univision (KMEX/Channel 34), 7 a.m.; ESPN Classic, delayed, 3 p.m.; TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46), delayed, 7 p.m.; Galavision, delayed, 9:30 p.m.; ESPN2, delayed, 10:30 p.m.
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Players to watch: Uruguay's Diego Forlan and Holland's Wesley Sneijder, the creative fulcrums of their teams, are Golden Ball candidates who have supplemented their playmaking with inspiring goals. Dutch winger Arjen Robben rivals Sneijder as his side's most important figure, and Dirk Kuyt's gritty work hasn't gone unnoticed. Mauricio Victorino's versatility has been vital for Uruguay, and he'll be key on an injury/suspension-weakened backline.
The scoop: The Netherlands, seeking its third title-game berth (and first since 1978), has been perfect in this campaign -- 8-0-0 in qualifying, 5-0-0 in the Cup -- and are sizable favorites to play in an all-European final Sunday. Coach Bert van Marwijk has emphasized results over creativity, and it paid off in the quarterfinal victory over Brazil although critics at home are bemoaning the absence of the beautiful game for which the Dutch are famous. Right back Gregory van der Wiel and holding midfielder Nigel de Jong are suspended, but everyone else is available after forward Robin van Persie's elbow injury turned out to be most minor, and Joris Mathijsen is set to return from a knee injury suffered in warmups before the Brazil game.

Uruguay was the last team to qualify for the World Cup, needing to beat Costa Rica in a playoff after finishing fifth in South America's eliminations, and have reached the final four for the first time in 40 years because Luis Suarez had the wherewithal to knock away Ghana's sure winning goal with his hand. The Dutch-based goalscorer, outstanding throughout the Cup, must serve a suspension for the violation -- a fair trade-off, to be sure -- and Los Charruas could be without three-quarters of their starting backline. Left back Jorge Fucile is suspended, captain Diego Lugano is unlikely after sustaining a knee injury against Ghana, and Diego Godin is uncertain, although likelier than Lugano, with a hamstring strain that forced him to miss the quarterfinal.

Forlan, whose father played in Uruguay's 1978 World Cup loss to the Dutch, is the pivotal figure, especially with Suarez out, and Edinson Cavani's quickness and size will be useful whether he's placed up top or on the left flank. And watch out for Sebastian Abreu, whose cheeky shot decided the penalty-shootout against Ghana -- and who scored the goal that clinched Uruguay's World Cup berth.


History: Uruguay's second World Cup title was unexpected. Brazil, the host, had been the dominant team in the 1950 World Cup, came into the decisive match following huge wins over Sweden (7-1) and Spain (6-1) and needed just a draw against their tiny southern neighbors to hoist the trophy. (There was no title game; a four-team round-robin of first-stage group winners determined the champion.) But Uruguay withstood a first-half onslaught and rallied after Friaca gave the home team the advantage two minutes into the second half. Juan Alberto Schiaffino pulled Los Charruas even in the 66th minute, and the “Miracle of Maracana” was completed with a goal in the 79th by Alcides Ghiggia, who later said: “Only three people have managed to silence the Maracana: the pope, Frank Sinatra and me.” The Brazilian players were lambasted; some retired, others never suited up again for the Selecao. There were reports of fans committing suicide, a victory song written for the occasion was never performed, and gold medals the Brazilian federation had made for the players were melted down. And Brazil's white and blue color scheme was abandoned, with the adoption of a new uniform -- the yellow jersey and blue shorts, now legendary.
Prediction: Netherlands 2, Uruguay 1

Potential lineups


Uruguay: 1-Fernando Muslera; 16-Maximiliano Pereira, 6-Mauricio Victorino, 3-Diego Godin, 11-Alvaro Pereira; 20-Alvaro Fernandez, 15-Diego Perez, 17-Egidio Arevalo; 13-Sebastian Abreu, 10-Diego Forlan, 7-Edinson Cavani.

Netherlands: 1-Maarten Stekelenburg; 12-Khalid Boulahrouz, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 6-Mark van Bommel, 14-Demy de Zeeuw; 11-Arjen Robben, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 7-Dirk Kuyt; 9-Robin van Persie.