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Dutch hold off Uruguay to reach World Cup final

Tue 6th, July 2010

Cape Town, South Africa (Sports Network) - Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scored in a three-minute span of the second half and the Netherlands survived a frantic finish to edge Uruguay, 3-2, on Tuesday to advance to the FIFA World Cup final.

Sneijder scored in the 70th minute for his fifth goal of the tournament and Robben followed with his second. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst also scored for Holland.

Maxi Pereira scored two minutes into stoppage time for Uruguay, which got its other goal from Diego Forlan, but the South American team could not finish off another miracle win.

The Netherlands will play the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between Germany and Spain in the World Cup final Sunday. Diego Forlan scored the lone goal for Uruguay, which plays the loser of the other semifinal in the third-place match Saturday.

The Netherlands were nearly gifted an early goal when Uruguay goalie Fernando Muslera failed to punch the ball out of danger. Dirk Kuyt ran onto the ball on the left side of the box but, with Muslera scrambling back to his line, rushed the shot and fired high in the fourth minute.

Dutch captain Van Bronckhorst turned the next chance into the best goal of the World Cup. Demy De Zeeuw, starting for suspended Nigel De Jong, dropped a pass off to Van Bronckhorst in midfield, and the left back unleashed a perfect shot from 40 yards just off the fingertips of a diving Muslera, off the right post, and into the net in the 18th minute.

Holland continued to create chances and Robben broke into the box in the 31st, but Uruguay defender Martin Caceres, making his first appearance of the World Cup, made a sliding tackle to prevent a shot.

Alvaro Pereira followed with Uruguay's first shot on goal from 30 yards in the 36th, but Dutch goalie Maarten Stekenlenburg made an easy save.

Robben set up Kuyt on the left side of the area minutes later, but Kuyt failed to solve Muslera at the near post.

Uruguay tied the game in the closing minutes of the half when Forlan's curving shot just over the head of Dutch defender John Heitinga, off the fingertips of a fooled Stekenlenburg and under the crossbar. Forlan hit the shot from nearly 30 yards and Stekenlenburg initially took a step toward the left, allowing the ball to sneak past him.

Forlan tested Stekenlenburg again before half, but the Dutch goalie did well to hold a long free kick to keep the match level.

Holland coach Bert van Marwijk made an aggressive move at half, taking off De Zeeuw for attacking midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart.

Uruguay was the first to create a scoring chance after half, though, as Edison Cavani, starting in place of suspended Luis Suarez, pressured Stekenlenburg on the edge of the area and had a clearance deflect off him.

Cavani slipped the ball out to Pereira, who hit a 25-yard shot toward an empty net but Van Bronckhorst raced in to head the ball out of danger in the 51st.

The Dutch had extended period of possession in Uruguay's side without creating a strong chance, and the South American side escaped the spell and quickly set up a chance for Forlan.

Uruguay earned a free kick 30 yards from goal in the 66th, and Forlan dipped a shot over the ball and toward the bottom left, but Stekenlenburg dove to push the ball wide.

The Netherlands could have taken the lead two minutes later when Van der Vaart and Robben had back-to-back chances, respectively, the first saved by Muslera and the second fired over the bar.

Sneijder followed with the go-ahead goal in the 70th, when he took a pass from Robin Van Persie and fired from the top of the penalty area. With the help of a deflection off a Uruguay defender, the ball rolled past Muslera and into the bottom-right corner.

Robben sealed the win three minutes later when he adjusted to a Kuyt cross and headed into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards. Kuyt's cross was just a step behind Robben, but the Bayern Munich winger took a step back toward the top of the 18 and flicked the header past a helpless Muslera.

Robben had two more chances to add to his scoring total in the final minutes, but failed to finish two golden chances, and Uruguay nearly took advantage.

Walter Gargano played a short free kick to Maxi Perieria on the right edge of the area, and he hit a shot into the bottom left corner to set up the frantic finish.

Uruguay had a few half-chances in the closing seconds, including possession in the area, but could not create another goal. Uruguay survived a missed penalty kick in its quarterfinal in the closing seconds of extra time just to advance to the semifinals.

The Dutch held on to advance to the final for the first time since the second of two consecutive runner-up finishes in 1978.

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