Dutch matchup will create juicy storyline

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:31 PM ET

CAPE TOWN - As the final seconds ticked away at Green Point Stadium, two members of the Orange Nation hoisted a foil replica of the World Cup trophy - painted orange, of course - and planted a pair of big smooches on it.

Come Sunday, they can only hope their heroes from the Netherlands will be puckering up and doing the same to the real deal.

The Dutch will have their opportunity to do just that, all right, landing a spot in the World Cup title game for the first time in 32 years thanks to a 3-2 victory over a spunky Uruguay side here in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Their opponent will be determined Wednesday when the Germans and Spanish meet in the other semifinal in Durban. A Dutch-German matchup in the final would give the Netherlands a chance to avenge the 1974 title game in which Germany overcame an early 1-0 deficit to win the championship 2-1.

Should The Netherlands meet Spain at Soccer City on Sunday, it would be a meeting of two teams many consider to be the biggest underachievers in World Cup history, with neither side ever having won a World Cup despite sporting star-studded lineups over the years.

Either way, the storylines will be juicy, to say the least. Of course, the Dutch must now tackle an opponent that is bigger than just the squads from either Spain or Germany.

Now they must take on history.

They have been here before, standing just one victory away from soccer's ultimate prize. Back in 1974, they scored an early goal against the Germans only to see their fiercest rivals come back to post a 2-1 win in the championship game.

Four years later against host Argentina, a late goal brought the Dutch level at 1-1, a tie that was shortlived when the Argentines scored twice in extra time for the 3-1 triumph.

In his post-match press conference, manager Bert van Marwijk was asked about which team he would like to face in the final. Many Dutch supporters would prefer Germany, a meeting that would provide a stage for revenge for the heart-breaking loss suffered by Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff and his teammates in the title game almost four decades ago.

"I don't think vengeance has anything to do with it," Van Marwijk said. "It was a fantastic match against Germany (in '74). We lost but we should have won. It is interesting. I think overall Spain plays the best soccer. But I do think Germany has been the best at the tournament.

"Spain would be intriguing because we play the same style. But Germany would be interesting because of (1974)."

Van Marwijk has claimed throughout the tournament that this is is different Dutch team, one that does not flaunt "arrogance" after victories such as those before them have far too often.

In his mind, there will be no such swagger from his orange-clad side until after the title has been captured. At the same time, his players seem to be buying what their low-key manager is selling.

"If you really believe in something you can achieve it," he said. "I kept telling the players that. In the past, there has been a sense of complacency at times. We have worked hard to avoid that."

Maybe they have not exhibited the beauty of the so-called beautiful game all the time, preferring a ball-possession type style that sometimes sees them going backward instead of forward.

But somehow, some way, it seems to be working. Just ask Brazil, the pre-tournament co-favourites who were felled by the Dutch 2-1 in the quarterfinals on a pair of second-half goals by the underdogs in orange.

In Tuesday night's semifinal, there were some tense moments too, especially after Uruguay's Diego Forlan tied the game in the 41st minute to offset Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's opener in the 18th.

But goals by Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben four minutes apart in the second half gave the Dutch a two-goal cushion, one they would need when Uruguay scored in penalty time.

Now it's off to Johannesburg and a date with history.


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