It's crunch time as we gear up for the first semi-final...Netherlands and Uruguay will grind to a standstill later today as the two nations go head-to-head for a spot in the World Cup final. Both counties have played important roles in the evolution of the game, despite only having a combined population of around 20 million people, and will be looking to add new chapters to their already rich histories.
Anticipation will be heightened, no doubt, by the fact that the Dutch have never won the competition, with Uruguay also experiencing a 60-year hiatus. The tournament is now at a stage where teams and players can write their names into history, and we've got everything you need to know about the big match right here...
Uruguay - Netherlands Tuesday, July 6, 2010 - 20:30 local time
- Preview: Bert van Marwijk's side are unbeaten in their last 24 matches
- This is Uruguay's first appearance in the semi-finals since 1970
- The Dutch are bidding to reach their third final, having lost the previous two
Keep an eye out for these ones...
|Rapid and effervescent, Robben has returned from injury to lead the Dutch charge. After a wonderful domestic campaign with Bayern Munich, the flying winger has the potential to be a matchwinner for van Marwijk's side. The absence of Uruguay's Jorge Fucile could award Robben greater scope to trouble his opponents.
|The matchwinner against Brazil, Sneijder's season just keeps getting better and better. Blessed with insatiable energy and drive to succeed, the diminutive playmaker has been vital to Dutch progress so far. His eagerness to take on responsibility makes him central to the Netherlands' hopes once again.
|Robin VAN PERSIE
|The fact he has only one goal to his name suggests a slightly subdued tournament from the Arsenal forward. However, given the nature in which the Dutch play, with van Persie often dropping off the frontline, the forward's work goes well beyond just putting the ball in the net.
|Three clean sheets in the group stage illustrated Uruguay's defensive strengths, of which Muslera is an important part of. The agile keeper has shown great maturity for his 24 years, and was the hero in the shoot-out with Ghana, saving two penalties to take his side into the last four.
|A ferocious competitor, Perez has personified the commitment and drive of this Uruguayan side under Oscar Tabarez. His work in midfield has been efficient and reliable. His versatility in the middle of the field has caught the eye and made him one of the highlights of his side's run to the semi-finals.
Did You Know...?
Fun Fact: These sides have met just four times before: twice in the Olympics in the 1920s (two Uruguayan wins), again in the 1974 World Cup (2-0 Netherlands), and finally in a 1980 friendly (2-0 Uruguay).
|The rate of goals that result from a shot from Wesley Sneijder in this World Cup. In other words, one in five times he hits the ball towards goal, it hits the back of the net.
||This amount of the Uruguayan squad that still plays in their national league. One, Martin Silva of Defensor Sporting, is third-choice goalkeeper with just one cap; the other, Penarol's Egidio Rios, is making a name for himself in midfield.|
What We Saw In The Last Matchday...
Argentina 0-4 Germany (report)
If you thought the Germans were polished against England, then this was a performance that shimmered with confidence. Joachim Loew's side were playing on a level of their own as they picked apart an Argentina side who had looked impressive in reaching the quarter-finals.
Thomas Mueller got things rolling early on, before a brace from Miroslav Klose and another from Arne Friedrich sealed a magnificent victory for die Nationalmannschaft. Sadly for Mueller, he will miss the semi-final through suspension.
Paraguay 0-1 Spain (report)
This was a game that contained far more drama than the modest scoreline suggests. After a first-half that was notable only for the laboured nature with which the Spanish moved the ball, the game exploded with controversy during the second period. First, Gerard Pique was found guilty of holding Oscar Cardozo back in the penalty area, allowing the Benfica forward the opportunity to hand Paraguay the lead. His penalty was saved by Iker Casillas though, and Spain hit back with a spot kick of their own in the very next sequence of play.
Xabi Alonso converted, but then missed a re-take that was required due to encroachment on the original kick. With the game still goalless and heading for extra-time, David Villa was Spain's savour yet again as he popped up to claim his fifth goal of the tournament.