For a long time after the final whistle, large crowds of Netherlands supporters stood their ground and filled Green Point Stadium with the noise of celebration. It was both a party for its own sake and a homage to their heroes in orange, who had earlier beaten Uruguay 3-2 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ semi-finals. Now through to the Final for the third time in their history, the Dutch appear well on course for their greatest triumph since winning the 1988 UEFA European Championship in Germany.
"It's terrific, that was a great performance," a visibly thrilled Arjen Robben exclusively told FIFA.com. An hour had passed since the end of the match in Cape Town, but Robben was still searching for the words to describe his side’s achievement. "It's easy enough to say it now, but it was always our target to reach the World Cup Final for the first time in 32 years. We’ve done it at last, and we’re obviously incredibly proud."
Pride was also the dominant emotion for Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima. The royal couple hurried to the dressing room after the game, personally congratulating all the Netherlands players. A little later, Robben & Co reappeared on the field and made their way over to the massed ranks of fans in orange, dancing, chanting and singing together in celebration of a 25th consecutive match without defeat.
The 62,479 crowd had earlier seen the Europeans control the play for long spells, taking an 18th-minute lead courtesy of captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s 30-yard piledriver. "I’ve scored quite a few like that down the years, but a goal like that in the World Cup semi-final is a bit special," the 35-year-old confessed to FIFA.com. In January this year, the veteran struck an almost identical goal in the Dutch cup quarter-finals for his club Feyenoord.
I’ve scored quite a few like that down the years, but a goal like that in the World Cup semi-final is a bit special.
Uruguay battled their way back into it after the half-hour and equalised through Diego Forlan’s fourth goal of the tournament four minutes from half-time. "In the first half, we saw exactly what happens if your organisation breaks down," admonished Mark van Bommel. “However, the second half was much better,” the 33-year-old continued. "We took control of the match and proved we’re a decent footballing side," agreed boss Bert van Marwijk.
The coach replaced holding midfielder Demy de Zeeuw with the more attack-minded Rafael van der Vaart at half-time, and the reward was not long in coming. Wesley Sneijder struck his fifth of the tournament on 70 minutes, before Arjen Robben set his side firmly on course for victory with goal number 2,200 in the history of the FIFA World Cup just three minutes later. "That’s obviously nice, but the real significance is that it was an important goal for the team," Robben told FIFA.com.
There was a brief flurry of excitement right at the end when Maximiliano Pereira pulled one back in the second minute of stoppage time, but it was too late for the South Americans, who now play off for the consolation prize of third place. "We gave it our best shot, but it wasn’t quite enough. I’m still completely satisfied with my team," summarised coach Oscar Tabarez. "We're disappointed, but we've shown everyone who wrote us off beforehand that we're not very far off the top."
The top of the pile is where the Dutch now intend to end up, regardless of whether their next opponents are Spain or Germany. "I hope I end up playing against so many of my club-mates. The Bayern lads deserve a place in the Final," said Robben, making no secret of his preferred opponents on Sunday. Van Marwijk stated no such preference, but clearly feels the Final could be a magnificent spectacle. "I reckon Spain play the best football overall, but I think the Germans have played the best football at the tournament. It’ll be a great match and we’ll see what happens."