The Netherlands reached the World Cup final for the first time since 1978 by defeating Uruguay 3-2 in Cape Town last night.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scored as the Dutch advanced to play Germany or Spain in the July 11 final in Johannesburg. The Netherlands lost to host nations West Germany in 1974 and Argentina four years later in their previous appearances in the championship match.
“A final is so special,” Sneijder, who won this year’s Champions League with Inter Milan, said in a news conference. “You must savor it because it’s not something that comes around the corner very often.”
Diego Forlan and Maxi Pereira scored for Uruguay, which was trying to reach its first final since winning its second World Cup title in 1950.
“I think it was a team that definitely deserved to be in the semifinal of the World Cup,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said at a news conference. “I’m very proud of my players, what we achieved. We accept defeat, the opponent was better.”
The Netherlands has won all six of its games in South Africa, after winning all eight in qualifying. It beat tournament favorite Brazil 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
“We survived and we were just so relieved in the changing- room,” Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk told reporters. “It’s quite something what we’ve achieved after 32 years.”
Dutch captain Van Bronckhorst put his team in front in the 18th minute with a shot from 25 yards that went over the hand of diving goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and into the top corner.
Uruguay didn’t get a shot on target until the 36th minute when Alvaro Pereira’s attempt was easily caught by Maarten Stekelenburg.
Forlan, serving as captain in place of the injured Diego Lugano, tied the game in the 41st minute when he fired in from about 30 yards.
Van Bronckhorst headed Alvaro Pereira’s long shot clear early in the second half after Stekelenburg was caught out of position.
Stekelenburg dived to knock away Forlan’s free kick in the 67th minute. Then Rafael van der Vaart forced Muslera into a diving save moments later, with Robben sending the rebound well over the goal.
Sneijder broke the deadlock in the 70th minute with a shot that took a deflection past Muslera for his fifth goal to tie Spain’s David Villa for the tournament lead. Uruguay complained that Robin van Persie was in an offside position when the ball went past him into the net.
“The second goal was offside,” Tabarez said. It’s not the first time it happens in the World Cup. It happened against us, but there’s no point weeping or looking for excuses.’’
The Dutch made it 3-1 three minutes later as Dirk Kuyt sent a cross into the middle of the area and Robben headed in off a post.
Maxi Pereira pulled a goal back for Uruguay with a curling shot from the edge of the area in stoppage time. The South Americans then pressured the Dutch goal in the closing seconds but were unable to get a shot on target.
Germany and Spain meet in the second semifinal tonight in Durban. Three-time champion Germany will be seeking a record eighth appearance in the World Cup final, with European champion Spain looking for its first.