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Netherlands recorded a narrow 3-2 victory against Uruguay on Tuesday evening to book their ticket for the 2010 World Cup final. As the scoreline suggests, it didn't go easily for Oranje, but not a single Dutch fan will care about the way Holland made it to their third World Cup final in history.
Oranje made a good start to the match and could have opened the scoring after only four minutes via Dirk Kuyt. The Liverpool striker aimed too high though and the chance went begging. Giovanni van Bronckhorst then broke the deadlock after 18 minutes of play with a stunning long range strike. Netherlands then lost control of the match and Diego Forlan levelled the score minutes before the break following some insecure goalkeeping from Maarten Stekelenburg.
The South Americans dominated the opening minutes of the second half, but they were dealt a huge blow when Wesley Sneijder scored an alleged offside goal to restore Holland's lead in the 70th minute. Only minutes later, Arjen Robben decided the match with a superb header after a pinpoint cross from the left. Uruguay pegged one back in the dying seconds of the game, but it was too little, too late.
After the match, some were quick to point to the referee as the main reason for Holland's victory and Uruguay's elimination. This point of view is not only extremely one-sided, but could also be seen as a lack of respect to the performance of Oranje. The Europeans were the better side for the majority of the game and fully deserved their win.
Of course, the referee could have blown his whistle for Mark van Bommel's foul in the build-up to the first goal of the match. And yes, Holland's second goal of the match could have been disallowed for offside, even though there's plenty of room for discussion on this.
One tends to forget though that Maxi Pereira (who scored his side's second goal of the match in the 91st minute) could easily have been dismissed for his tackle from behind on the ankles of Arjen Robben when the ball was at the attacker's chest after about 20 minutes. And was Van Bommel's challenge that was punished with a free kick that eventually led to the 3-2 goal really a foul? I tend to think it wasn't and the decision to award Uruguay a free kick was pretty harsh.
This being said, it's clear that the referee was not the reason why Netherlands recorded their sixth consecutive victory at the 2010 World Cup. Oranje primarily beat the Celeste because of the individual class they possess, both up front and in midfield. Earlier in the tournament, players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Kaka all failed to live up to the high expectations, but the star players of Holland have played a major role in their success so far.
Gifted playmaker Wesley Sneijder was his side's key performer in the opening stages of the match and the Inter playmaker once again underlined his importance for Oranje when he restored his side's lead with a deflected shot from inside the area. The versatile midfielder is joint top goalscorer of the 2010 World Cup at the moment with five goals and was involved in two more.
Highly rated winger Arjen Robben again showcased his superb form with a number of silky dribbles and the Bayern Munich star caused his direct opponent all kinds of trouble. Robben initially lacked an end product, but the former Real Madrid star decided the match 15 minutes before the final whistle with a sublime header.
And then there was Mark van Bommel, who once again put in a great performance. Sure, the Bayern Munich skipper is not the most likeable person out there but the influential midfielder has possibly been Oranje's best player at the 2010 World Cup so far and he was his side's inspirational leader in the win against Uruguay.
The Dutch players were already thinking about the upcoming final only minutes after the final whistle on Tuesday and Oranje appear to be determined to win their first World Cup title in history. But if they fail to do so in the end, their star players are certainly not the ones to blame for it.