Holland will have their chance to exorcise the ghosts of World Cup finals past on Sunday after beating Uruguay 3-2.
Goals from Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben secured a
semi-final victory over Uruguay in Cape Town and a chance to avenge defeats on
the game's biggest stage in 1974 and 1978.
Bert van Marwijk's side may not delight like the 'Total Football' Dutch teams
from the playing days of Johan Cruyff.
But having waited so long, the Oranje will care little for that as they
prepare to bring their own glow to Johannesburg in a meeting with either Spain
Captain Van Bronckhorst brilliantly put his side in front before former
Manchester United star Diego Forlan levelled with a goal that ultimately was not
quite enough, even though Maximiliano Pereira's strike gave a glimmer of hope in
Forlan was too isolated to cause Holland damage after Van Bronckhorst scored that stunning opener. And, with the clock ticking down towards half-time, there seemed to be little on when Forlan collected possession 40 yards out. But, offered space to advance into, he then delivered the kind of shot this hotly-debated Jabulani ball was made for, though big questions will be asked of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
Stekelenburg's part in the equaliser ensured Van Bronckhorst's opener was the
better of two eye-catching first-half efforts. As with Forlan, there seemed no danger when the Dutch skipper receive possession on the left.
Due to retire when this tournament is over, the 35-year-old defender planted a fierce shot high to the goalkeeper's left, so far into the corner that it struck the inside of the post before finding the net.
Uruguay had not made their impact in South Africa through dazzling skill and unchecked flair. They are defensively aware and exceptionally well organised by wily old coach Oscar Tabarez.
Netherlands took their time to get about their task in the second period as Uruguay's defence threatened to hold firm, so it took a bit of good fortune to bring about a second goal.
Sneijder's shot deflected off Maxi Pereira, and past an off guard Robin van Persie, before flashing beyond the outstretched arm of Muslera and into the corner of the net.
Three minutes later, Robben rose to head home Kuyt's cross and the game looked over.
Uruguay did get a late second through defender Pereira's strike from the edge of the area and then besieged the Dutch goal. But they couldn't find a third to take the game into extra-time.
For Uruguay, the game was up. For Holland, the glory that proved so unobtainable all those years ago, is in reach again.