Darkhorse Uruguay meet their latest foe in an invigorated Netherlands at the World Cup 2010. The South American nation have not achieved this much in the competition since they came in fourth place in 1970 and last won the competition back in 1950. Now they have the chance to return to past glories.
Meanwhile, the Dutch are known as the best footballing nation to never win the World Cup, coming closest in 1974 and 1978 when they faltered in the final. Both sets of players have the chance to make history and there are several key match-ups to be highlighted.
Note: Castrol Rakings based on World Cup performances are in brackets.
Diego Forlan (104) v John Heitinga (66)
According to Goal.com’s Marcus Haydon, Diego Forlan is a true candidate for the Ballon d’Or and based on his performances in the Rainbow Nation it’s easy to see why. A complete striker, the Europa League hero can play wide or through the middle, has a brilliant strike, is adept at set-pieces, and can also challenge in the air. His days as a Manchester United flop are long gone.
Johnny Heitinga will lead an unexpectedly solid Dutch defence against the 31-year-old, who will shoulder even more responsibility now that Luis Suarez is suspended for this match. The Everton man dealt with Brazil’s Luis Fabiano, can he add a disappointed Forlan to his CV?
Fernando Muslera (105) v Maarten Stekelenburg (46)
Both goalkeepers came up very big for their teams in the quarter-finals, Muslera making two saves in a penalty shoot-out against Ghana, the pride of Africa, while the Dutch shot stopper was immense to deny Kaka and Maicon against Brazil and also claim crosses and set-pieces with authority. Two players who would not have been considered star members of their teams before the tournament have made significant contributions at key stages.
Stekelenburg has experience on his side with over 30 caps to his name and being first-choice at Ajax since 2005, but the relatively inexperienced Muslera’s athleticism will need to be a defining feature of this match if the South Americans are to cause an upset.
Diego Perez (73) v Mark Van Bommel (37)
Two combative midfielders that will have to provide drive in the middle of the park in order to succeed. Perez was sub-par in the Ghana game, but has been a real force in the tournament otherwise with his tenacity in the centre of the pitch. Since Van Bommel will be without his regular partner Nigel de Jong, there exists a chance for him to get a grip on the midfield – whether he plays on the right or in the centre.
The veteran Van Bommel seems to be one of those who has turned back time for the World Cup and his experience, rather than his physicality, will be more important on this occasion. Van Bommel must find ways to keep possession and also get the ball up to the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben in order to break down what promises to be a very tight Uruguay outfit, who have only conceded two goals.
Martin Caceres (N/A) v Arjen Robben (312)
With the impressive Jorge Fucile suspended, Martin Caceres, who has not played a single minute in South Africa, is expected to step in at left-back and has a mammoth task against tricky winger Arjen Robben.
The player who spent last season on loan at Juventus will have to curb his enthusiasm against the Bayern Munich star. Caceres likes to get forward, but he cannot afford to leave space for Robben to exploit on that flank. Discipline is the name of the game for Caceres, for Robben it is just a matter of being clinical and not wasting opportunities that come his way as he did in the first-half versus Brazil.
Oscar Tabarez v Bert van Marwijk
Oscar Tabarez had almost become a forgotten man in the coaching circles of football, but driving Uruguay to the semi-finals has reignited his career. Having executed a game plan with a potent offence and concrete defence, he must hammer home those same lessons that have been so successful thus far as the Dutch are the biggest challenge they have faced at this World Cup. To reach the final the expense of the Oranje would be Uruguay's greatest feat in 60 years.
Van Marwijk has done what many have failed to over the last 20 plus years in getting the Dutch to play as a unit and keeping the squad from becoming more of a circus than a football team (that honour went to France this year). One or two problems have slipped through the cracks, such as Robin van Persie’s outburst versus Slovakia, but on the field they look a united front a serious contender for the trophy. His main task is to keep it that way.
Of course, others can have a major influence on the proceedings as well. In terms of offence, Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder has been untouchable for the Dutch with four goals to his name and Edinson Cavani will have to be more shaper than he ahs been to cause trouble for the European back-line.
For the defence of La Celeste, captain Diego Lugano is a big loss if he does not recover from an injury that forced him to be sustituted off against Ghana, as he has been one of the best defenders in the tournament.
Who will come out on top? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 FIFA World Cup Match Predictor.
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