Contrary to what you may think, this makes sense, as virtually nobody honestly believed that Holland was going to beat Brazil, at least not in the way they eventually did, with hard-working players that intimidated and provoked the opposition into giving up well before match-end. This seems to be the common denominator; Holland playing in such a strong and balanced manner as to scare the opposition into thinking that it’s all hopeless, that the Dutch cannot be beaten today. It happened to the Danes, Japanese and Slovaks. It even happened against Brazil, which dominated the first half, should have scored at least 2, in which case it most probably would have progressed, and then all of a sudden, slowly but surely gave way under the steadily increased pressure from the man in Orange. Two goals by great little Wesley Sneijder and Brazil and all its ‘this will be our sixth title-swagger’ was gone.
This unrelenting style of play by Holland has led some to complain about foul-play and subsequently critize the Dutch for winning in such an ugly manner. Robben dived too much, Van Bommel provoked too aggressively and De Jong tackled too hard. Well, too bad. Sorry for applying the laws of modern football in a match against sweet Brazil. Sorry for finally stepping up at the right time and showing that we are no pushovers nor prima donna’s who only care for our style of play. Sorry for the Oranje, who realize that the time has come to finally bring home the World Cup any which way possible. I do apologize people, but now is the time. And everyone in Holland knows it is; it doesn’t matter how we win it, as long as we win it.
The mood of excitement and self-confidence that has engulfed the Dutch nation on Friday night as a result of this realization, stemming from the victory against Brazil, still very much serves as a comforting blanket of invincibility heading into tonight’s encounter with Uruguay. If the semi-finals normally serve the role of Mount Everest in blocking the view on the Final for any nation being fortunate enough to survive until the final four, the semi-final against Uruguay is seen as just a minor speed bump en-route to either a titanic clash with super-skilled Spain or a historic battle with the arch-enemy; Germany.
At this moment, nobody really cares about who’s the opponent, believing that if you can beat Brazil you can beat anyone, displaying an overly confident attitude that might have some serious truth in it nonetheless. Because, with all due respect, Uruguay is far from an inspiring opponent to be confronted with in the semi-final. It found its rightful place in the semi-finals by drawing to France and winning against South Africa, Mexico, South Korea and Ghana. While that may be a remarkable achievement, Uruguay is still very much a mediocre team, with only three genuine class players in Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Diego Lugano and a style of play that is focused on the flashes of brilliance of especially the former two. With these three in top-form and an over-achieving team as a whole, Uruguay might have had a shot at the Final if Holland played well below-par. However, since Suarez and Lugano won’t play tonight, Uruguay is quality-strapped and Holland should thus be able to overcome the Uruguayan speed bump without too much difficulty.
Besides the eventual result of the match, it will be very interesting to see if Holland can continue to improve its level of play after the strong showing in the second half against Brazil. If we want to have a decent shot at beating Spain or Germany in the final, this level will have to improve significantly. Luckily, there are strong signs pointing in that direction, with Sneijder and Robben continuing to improve their play and with Van Bommel and Stekelenburg slowly but surely becoming the World Cup’s most valuable players. If these developments continue, Holland will be able to peak at ‘le moment supreme’, unlike Spain and Germany, who enjoyed their highs in earlier stages already.