When all five South American teams progressed through to the knockout stage of the World Cup, pundits were quick to observe that football was developing a distinctly Latin flavour. A week later and football tastes European again. Four years ago all four semifinalists were from Europe, this time it’s three out of four.
If it were not for Suarez’s last-minute handball against Ghana, there would not be a solitary representative from South America in the semifinals.
Brazil disappeared in the second half against the Dutch, Argentina crumbled against the pace of Germany’s counter-attack and Paraguay failed to maintain the intensity of their “closing down” game for the full 90 minutes against Spain. Only Uruguay survived the trial of the last eight, and that by the most dubious of means.
Unless the Uruguayans manage to upset the odds, South Africa will witness a European nation being crowned world champions outside of Europe for the first time.
With Suarez suspended for tonight’s clash with the Netherlands, the hopes of the non-European world rest with Diego Forlan.
This has been an amazing season for the striker, who while at Manchester United couldn’t find his way to the back of the net with a Sat Nav.
Extra-time goals against both Liverpool (in the semifinals) and Fulham (in the final) won the UEFA Europa League for his club Atletico Madrid. If tomorrow’s game does go to extra time, the Netherlands had better beware Uruguay’s number 10 lurking in the box.
The game could well turn out to be the battle of the two men who orchestrated victory in Europe’s two major club competitions this year.
While Forlan was taking the Europa League back to Madrid, Wesley Sneijder was inspiring Inter Milan to win the Champions League for the first time, in the Spanish capital.
Sneijder’s two goals against Brazil, although the first should have been accredited to Felipe Melo, sent the five-time winners crashing out of the tournament at the quarterfinal stage for the second World Cup running, in the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
Do not expect a fast, flowing game of football tonight. Both teams flood the midfield, leaving just one player up front with three playing behind him, in the modern way. While both teams love to have possession of the ball, the Uruguayans are equally confident sitting back and holding a strong back line.
With Sneijder on fire and Arjen Robben in the form of his life, it might just be time for Forlan’s luck to run out. If Sneijder wins the battle of Cape Town, the Dutch will be heading to their first final since 1978. As for the Uruguayans, they haven’t reached a final since 1950 when they beat Brazil in front of 199,954 spectators, the highest attended game of football in World Cup history.