NED/URU Semifinal Retro Diary

1’ Love the early hard challenge by Van Bommell to upend Pereira. Clean and mean.

2’ Mathijsen dispossesses Forlan as he tries the left channel. Good defending early for the Dutch.

4’ Kuyt misses a half-volley high over the bar after Robben makes getting into the right channel look too easy and Muslera tips Sneijder’s gorgeous aerial ball straight to Dirk . Tabarez can’t be happy to see the Dutch Plan A working so well already. That was almost an early cheap goal.

5’ Boularouz hits a dangerous fizzer back to the keeper; almost a corner. Not sharp.

6’ Boularouz again with a clumsy touch puts it right to Forlan, but Pereira wastes it with a useless shot over the goal from fifty yards.

10’ Every time Boularouz touches the ball it’s an adventure. Here he is giving up a free kick on the sideline trying to run over the entire Uruguayan midfield.

11’ After Van Bommel stays tough and wins it back after losing possession in the midfield, Kuyt puts on a first-touch clinic, sliding it beautifully past the defense and setting up a couple good balls into the box from the left. In the end Godín gets his head in the way of Robben’s close-range header at the near post and the ball winds up in Muslera’s hands. Another good sequence for the Dutch.

12’ A quick turnover and counterattack for Uruguay looks dangerous as only two defenders are back to defend Cavani and Forlan streaking toward the goal! But Forlan plays the ball into space on the right as just as Cavani looks to cut down the middle and the move comes to nothing. Cavani makes another run moments later and he’s free! But the flag is up... On replay he was clearly onside. First really bad call of the day.

13’ After a nice buildup, Sneijder bangs a hard shot off Van Persie in the box. The Dutch are yelling about something, maybe a handball. Referee says play on and a counterattack quickly materializes at the other end as Bouhlarouz is once again lost on the right side. The central defense is quick to the ball and a throw-in is the only result.

14’ Forlan called offside as he strikes a shot from a tough angle at the edge of the six-yard box... Again it’s a questionable decision, though not as bad as the first one. The far lineman seems to have it in for the guys in blue. Let em play!

15’ Pereira goes on a great run down the right side, all the way down the field and then dribbles it into three defenders and loses it. Whoops.

16’ Dutch are allowing Uruguay to use the corners and clogging up the area in front of goal. So far the Uruguayans haven’t adjusted.

17’ More Boularouz. Dribble, dribble, dribble, GUH. Now on the left side, Van Persie makes a great play to keep it in, and he’s got two options streaking to goal as he dribbles into the penalty box. A tough challenge dispossesses him while he’s trying to make up his mind, and then he takes an ugly frustration foul. He’s not booked, but he could have been. Bad play.

18’ Now Uruguay make the adjustment, sending Forlan over into the left channel to serve the ball into the box. His service is poor and the Dutch clear without trouble. They get into their buildup quickly and suddenly a couple of nearly-intercepted completed passes put the Uruguayans on their heels. Van Bommel under pressure backheels to De Zeeuw, who passes to Van Brockhorst, who’s s unmarked a bit off the top left corner of the box and he lets fly - GOAL!!!!!!!!! What a strike from the aging defender and he’s opened the scoring! Two hidden plays from the sequence leading to the goal: De Zeeuw hit a beautiful outlet pass to Van Persie to allow the Dutch attack to get going quickly, and Kuyt managed to collect the ball along the right side with a bit of fancy footwork, then switch it back to Van Bommel who made a mildly nasty play to wrest the 50/50 ball from a Uruguayan player and keep the play moving. As for Van Brockhorst’s strike, what can you say? Nothing. You can only direct attention to the goal. Go watch it now. I’ll wait.

21’ After a pair of Dutch corners, Pereira takes out a hunting knife and carves out Robben’s liver. Oh wait, no apparently he grabbed him a little bit. I was confused by Robben’s reaction. In any case, Pereira is booked. A clumsy challenge but quite an acting job by Robben; on replay it was totally innocuous.

27’ Both sides seem to let down a bit and we get a couple of fouls as the ball meanders back and forth between the two midfields. Now the Dutch give up a soft corner on a throw-in, but Van Bommel is in the right spot to head away the curling ball in at the near post. Then suddenly BLAM!!! a Dutch player is down and there’s a bit of argybargy starting at the edge of the box. Hard to tell what’s going on as we see the injured player is de Zeeuw... on replay we see that he was kicked square in the face by a bicycle kick from Caceres. OUCH.

31’ After the eventual restart, it’s not clear who was booked, but the Dutch go on a tear down the left side after Ven Persie brilliantly controls a long ball and cuts back square to center - he has options again and this time he skips Kuyt at the top of the arc and puts it in to Robben just a step or two outside the penalty spot. . . Robben is dispossessed by a brave slide from Caceres, who we believe to now be carrying a yellow card.

32’ Cavani tries a dive in the six-yard box after he catches a slight tap from van Brockhorst’s elbow. The Dutch defense is screaming for a booking, but there was contact. The referee correctly laughs it off.

33’ Great buildup from the Uruguayans and they get it into the box heading for Forlan in front of goal, where the sharp pass is expertly intercepted by... Bouhlarouz! Nice work, man. First appearance in the retro diary wearing something other than goathorns. Uruguay looking now to get the ball outside with other players and work it back inside to Forlan. Looks promising.

35’ After another nice sequence, Cavani finds himself just outside the right post looking for a passing target. Forlan is at the penalty spot, but Cavani’s diagonal ball instead finds the shoulder of a Dutch player. Uruguay screaming for a handball; ref says play on.

36’ Cavani getting frustrated now as the Dutch are beating up on him a bit. He wants a call along the right sideline but it goes the other way.

38’ Cavani, Caceres and Forlan now combine down the left side on a long, slow series in which several Uruguay throw-ins culminate in a ball in from Pereira that finds the head of Forlan at the near post! The ball is high and wide of the target and it’s a goal kick. Uruguay seemingly in control here as the Dutch are looking a little loose. Only good positioning by the central defenders kept that from being a clear chance on goal.

40’ Ragged end-to-end action as Bouhlarouz dribbles it up the right side for the Dutch. He tries an overlap but they switch it back to the left and lose the ball. Free kick for Uruguay, but now the Oranje bring it up again and Kuyt tries from the left corner of the area! Muslera smothers.

41’ On the restart Forlan gets free between the midfield and the defense and gets the ball as he cuts across from left to right. Now he fakes as if to go outside and Mathijsen is fooled! Now Mathijsen is chasing the play as Forlan shoots from distance... GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!! The ball sailed over the head of a Dutch defender and by the time the keeper picked it up it was too late. Announcers are savaging him, but it was a tough strike to deal with. Great goal by Forlan and suddenly we’re watching a cracking contest.

43’ Dutch looking very ragged as play continues after the goal. Van Bommel commits a foul in a dangerous position - Netherlands better be careful here. Forlan decides to test the near post again, but this time Stekelenburg collects it with ease.

45’ Uruguay look much the better side now, but Kuyt steps up to put his big body in the way of a Pereira run up the right side and forces a misfire for a goal kick.

45’+ Dutch control the full two minutes of added time with a precise, restrained attack, and Kuyt breaks free along the right edge just as the ball comes in! A diving header by Kuyt doesn’t get enough of the ball, and he’s ruled offside anyway. Oh, my! On replay Kuyt was clearly onside. WOW. At least now the bad offside rulings can be said to be cutting both ways. Horrible.

Halftime: The Dutch are certainly the side with the better precision and are generating much more consistent pressure on offense, but Forlan has made things tough on the Dutch defense, who are looking a bit shaky at times. Matheijsen was mixed, Bouhlarouz was bad, and Forlan’s teammates are striking a nice balance between doing enough to support him and staying out of his way. Forlan is the best player on the field the first half, but the Dutch have looked like a well-oiled machine for all but ten of fifteen minutes so far.

It’s an even match so far and it’s being played at a very high skill level. The officiating crew is probably the worst unit on the field so far - they seem to have no idea how to call the offside rule. Uruguay seemed to open things up for their own offense when they hit upon the idea of getting players forward to the outside and then working the ball back to Forlan either on the ground or in the air in front of goal.

Dutch had success whenever they had the ball; Uruguay will need more possession if they are to continue on and complete their comeback to win.

45’ Dutch take the ball and quickly win a free kick, but Van der Vaart, who’s come on for de Zeeus after his boot to the face in the first half, makes a mess of it and Uruguay have it at the center stripe. Whoops! They give it right back and here come the Dutch down the left. Van Brockhorst overlapping Kuyt looks tasty, but the flag is up. Let’s see if they finally got one right. Yes! Let’s hear it for officiating crew.

47’ Van Persie trying to assert himself in the middle with some nice work controlling balls coming in from the back, but eventually he’s caught offside and Uruguay have a free kick.

50’ Dutch still having so much of the ball it’s hard to tell how they will get enough time in front of goal to win. But from nowhere, Bouhlarouz gives the ball away to Cavani! It’s a footrace to the ball and it’s won, barely, by Stekelenburg, but all he can do it poke it to the outside and Cavani gets it to Pereira while the net is open! Van Bronckhorst, though, has gotten back and heads Pereira’s lofted shot clear for a corner.

52’ After a foul scuttles the corner, the Dutch are quickly back into their set offense, getting Robben free along the right channel, where he easily wins a corner from Caceres, but it comes to nothing as the service from van der Vaart is too high and too hard.

54’ Van Persie wins a free kick on a clear dive after being frustrated that his move didn’t shake Victorino.

56’ Announcers really getting on the Dutch for not being awesome enough. Uruguay fans are groaning all over the world as the blue shirts win a corner on the left side.

57’ Dueling counterattacks now as it’s Kuyt, then Cavani failing to get their service in from the channel. Now it’s Robben breaking on the right and he’s free momentarily, but poked away for a corner by Arévalo Rios on the help defense. Again a corner is scuttled by an offensive foul, this time for Holland.

60’ After some stalemate in the midfield, Uruguay manage a nice move down the left, but Forlan’s flick-on header is handled by Stekelenburg.

61’ Uruguay having more of the ball now, but just not able to complete any meaningful passes in front of the goal.

63’ Now the Dutch hang on to it for a while and get a few good looks - Sneijder has a bad miss and a corner results in a clearance and a reset for the Dutch. Sneijder loses it and Uruguay set up again. Van Bommel commits a foul that from the announcer’s telling you would think involved an ice pick and a garrotte. No booking.

67’ Forlan’s free kick is beautiful but Stekelenburg makes a critical save at the near post.

68’ Van Persie again collecting the long ball with grace and style and he hits it to van der Vaart who shoots - saved into the path of Robben who blasts the rebound into the seats. Great chance, good save.

69’ After Robben is dispossessed by a smart challenge from Caceres, Uruguay give it away in their own end and now they are scrambling. The Dutch look as if they are about to switch toward Kuyt on the left as Van Persie fills the middle, but Sneijder instead cuts it back right and hits a long pass to Robben on the right sideline. Robben marches through a tackle (!) and gets it to van der Vaart, who muscles it into Van Persie marked by two men. Van Persie plays it to Kuyt but Kuyt sees Sneijder streaking to the ball and leaves it alone. Sneijder takes one touch to the inside and hits a right-foot shot at the far post... GOAL!!!! It’s in as the announcer is beside himself that Van Persie wasn’t called offside. After a while he comes around to the idea that maybe Van Persie wasn’t called offside because he was onside.

72’ After the restart Uruguay win a free kick. but it’s just a bit too high as Stekelenburg collects it. After Uruguay condede a soft throw, Van Persie works a two-man game with Robben to push it up the right side. Now Van Bommel switches it over to Sneijder on the left, who finds Kuyt all alone along the sideline. Kuyt with all day to set up a soft ball in and it finds the head of Robben... GOAL!!!!

74’ The King is happy. The Dutch are happy. Forlan is... no, I can’t say it. Let’s just say he’s sad.

80’ Uruguay are understandably in shock as they’ve gone from looking to have the better chance to go on and win to 3-1 down in the space of five minutes. Forlan has a bad turnover and the wind is out of the sails.

82’ Robben grabs another Uruguay turnover and has a run down the right side. Plays it to Sneijder, who lofts it back to Robben in front of goal, but Robben whiffs on the shot and it’s cleared easily. Dutch look like a good bet to go up 4-1 before long.

84’ BBC announcer names Bouhlarouz the man of the match. “What does that tell you?” he asks. Um, that you and Bouhlarouz are sleeping together? That you start drinking at 10 am? Tell me when I’m getting warm. Now Forlan is coming off and this feels like a give-up move. How can you take him out; he’s been everywhere! Maybe he’s hurt, or just completely out of gas. You could forgive him; wonderful game.

86’ Bouhlarouz tries to score an own goal. The BBC guy declares his header “calm.” OK. Now Robben suddenly breaking away as Van Persie springs him. He’s all alone in front of goal! He... he... dribbles into the keeper’s arms. Weak.

88’ Now it’s van der Vaart with a chance, this time from range, but he doesn’t get enough power in the shot and it’s into the keeper’s arms. All one-way traffic now as Uruguay seem spent and defeated.

89’ Some sign of life from Uruguay at least as they win a corner, then pound in a few good crosses before getting caught offside.

90’ Holland killing time now with a sub of Ella for Robben. They quickly find him on a break, and his pass to Sneijder looks good, but it wrongfoots him and it’s lost. Van Bommel gives up a free kick on the counterattack, then pretends to be hurt and the announcer is having some sarcastic fun with it. Van Bommel is a thug, it’s true. But a lovable thug!

92’ We’re expecting three minutes of added time, so it’s getting late now, but here’s Pereira after Gargano’s free kick finds him near the right front corner of the box, and his left-footed shot hooks in at the far post, GOAL!!!!!!!!!!

93’ Suddenly it’s a bit interesting, and the Dutch crazily give it away immediately on the kickoff! Now they are under assault as Uruguay stream forward in numbers, supported by the keeper’s long-distance service. Over and over they send it in to the box, but no one can get a shot off. Van Bommel is booked for time wasting and the announcer is elated. More balls in, more near chances, but in the end it’s not to be, Netherlands are through to their first final since 1978!

Seemed like a great game from the Dutch, but hard for me to say; I enjoy any Dutch win. Certainly one of the more entertaining matches of the tournament and played at a high skill level.

Man of the match: Tough call; tempted to give it to Van Bommel just to try to give the BBC commentator a heart attack, but really I have to hand it to Dirk Kuyt; he did it all. Possession, help defending, set up the winning goal with a perfect lofted ball... he did everything but score, and he could easily have done that as well if he’d caught a break or two along the way. Honorable mentions to Van Persie, who was wonderful with his controlling touches, Robben, who made several great plays, and Sneijder, who scored yet again and seemed always to have his boot involved in the best Dutch attacks.

For the losing side, they had to rely too much on Forlan with Suarez out. He was up to the challenge, but his brilliance just wasn’t quite enough in the end to counter the relentless attack of the Dutch.

Looking forward to a great final against Spain!