Dutch reach World Cup final; captaincy row roils Germans

Johannesburg, July 7 (DPA) The Netherlands became the first team to win a berth in the World Cup final by defeating Uruguay 3-2 in South Africa Tuesday.

Their opponents will be either Spain or Germany, which have been roiled by a captaincy row.

Dutch wonder duo Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were both on target in the Cape Town semi-final after stunning long-distance goals from the teams’ two captains, the Netherlands’ Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Uruguay’s Diego Forlan.

Maximiliano Pereira’s goal for Uruguay in stoppage time came too late to make a difference.

Tuesday’s result means a European team is guaranteed to win a World Cup organized outside Europe for the first time.

‘We’re on a mission. You could see that today. We haven’t reached our goal yet, but we’re on the way,’ said Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, who has said he will not settle for anything less than the title.

The last time the Dutch reached a World Cup final was in 1978, when they lost to hosts Argentina.

Uruguay go home with their heads held high after their best World Cup performance since 1970.

‘It was a good tournament. Of course we’re sad, because we had a big chance to accomplish something big after so many years … but they were a difficult opponent and that’s just football,’ said Egidio Arevalo, whose Uruguay last won the World Cup in 1950.

Apart from a misfired effort from Dirk Kuyt on the 4th minute, the game struggled to lift off, with neither side taking too many risks.

It badly needed a surprise to get the crowd going, and a surprise they got: In the 18th minute, from nowhere land, Van Bronckhorst produced a missile of a shot that whooshed past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, hit the inside of the post and filled the Uruguay net.

It was all that the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander, and his wife, Princess Maxima, needed to party in the stands of Green Point Stadium.

Uruguay top scorer Forlan must have felt personally offended by Van Bronckhorst’s great effort, because in the 41st he decided to match it with another fantastic finish – more central but from almost the same distance, 27 metres – to make it 1-1 and stun the Dutch.

Dutch coach Van Marwijk decided it was time to take more risks after the break and substituted Demy de Zeeuw, a defensive midfielder, with the more attack-minded Rafael van der Vaart.

In the 65th, Uruguay captain Forlan took a great free-kick from 28 metres, but this time the Dutch keeper did well to block it.

In the 70th Sneijder fired a rifle from inside the area, the ball was deflected by a Uruguayan leg and ended up in the far corner for the second Dutch goal. It was Sneijder’s fifth goal of the tournament to take level at the top of the standings with Spain’s David Villa.

And it took the Dutch only three more minutes to seal the game with a header from their other diminutive but classy player, Robben, who met a Kuyt cross from the right.

Uruguay, by now exhausted and ineffective, conceded defeat about 10 minutes from time, but still managed to score a second in stoppage time.

In Durban, meanwhile, Germany coach Joachim Loew rejected suggestions that team harmony had been dealt a blow by Philipp Lahm’s claims to retain the captaincy.

‘It doesn’t bother us here at all,’ he said.

‘Of course he (Lahm) wants to take on responsibility and has done that in exemplary fashion. He also knows that it is for the coach to take the decision that will be made at the right time after the World Cup.’

Lahm had said in interviews he would like to stay captain even if Michael Ballack returned from injury after the World Cup.

The comments were seen in Germany as denting harmony in the team camp ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final.

Ballack, 33, had been with the squad to lend support during the quarter-final win over Argentina. He left Monday amid media suggestions that relations with some of his team-mates were less than idyllic.

However, Loew said Ballack had left on the advice of the team’s medical staff to begin rehabilitation work ahead of the new season and would return at the weekend if the team were successful.

The team’s medical staff had seen that the injury had healed faster than expected and felt Ballack should waste no time in resuming training, Loew said.

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