CAPE TOWN: Playmaker Wesley Sneijder inspired Netherlands to a 3-2 victory over battling Uruguay on Tuesday that sent them back to the World Cup final after a 32-year wait where they will play in an all-European clash.
Sneijder, scorer of both goals in the 2-1 quarter-final win over Brazil, was on target in the 70th minute to put the Dutch 2-1 ahead before Arjen Robben got a third three minutes later.
Maximiliano Pereira grabbed a second goal for Uruguay in added time but despite a late spell of pressure from the South Americans it was too late to stop the Dutch marching on.
Netherlands progress to their third World Cup final with the win setting up a showdown with either Spain or Germany.
“First final since ’74 and ’78, that came up in my mind in the second half,” said Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk. “It’s so very special and as a small country we can be so proud.”
“After the second and third we should have scored a fourth. That would have prevented that final phase. But this is a World Cup. It doesn’t matter how you do it it’s all about the result.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez told a news conference: “I’m very proud of my players… our opponents were better when it came to scoring goals against us. We went very far, no one expected that, so that helps the sadness of the defeat.”
Midfielder Egidio Arevalo added: “We had a good World Cup. A lot of years have passed since we’ve done so well.”
Uruguay last reached the World Cup semifinal in 1970.
The first half at Green Point Stadium ended 1-1 after superb long-range strikes from left back Giovanni van Bronckhorst for Netherlands and forward Diego Forlan for the Uruguayans.
Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera handed the Dutch an early chance when he failed to hold Robben’s cross and the ball fell to Dirk Kuyt but he fired over the bar.
Robben had a shot blocked by his own player before Van Bronckhorst put the Dutch ahead in the 18th minute with a powerful, rising shot which went in off the far post.
The goal sparked the Uruguayans — missing striker Luis Suarez through suspension and captain Diego Lugano through injury — into life and they began to attack with more purpose.
They levelled four minutes before halftime when Forlan collected a pass, cut inside his marker and scored with a long-range shot that caught goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg wrongfooted although he did get a touch.
The Dutch had more possession after the break but it was Uruguay who created the better openings.
Alvaro Pereira’s chip was headed off the line by Van Bronckhorst and Forlan’s curling free kick forced Stekelenburg to turn the ball away at the foot of his near post.
Robben then wasted a golden chance for the Dutch when he fired wide when a rebound landed on his weaker right foot.
But Sneijder put the Dutch back in front with a shot through a forest of legs for his fifth goal of the tournament to become joint top scorer with Spain’s David Villa.
Three minutes later, Robben scored with a perfectly placed downward header after Kuyt’s cross from the left and although Uruguay got a second goal through Pereira the Dutch triumphed.
European champions Spain play Germany in Durban in the other semifinal on Wednesday with the winners playing Netherlands in Sunday’s World Cup final at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
It will be Europe’s 10th World Cup win in 19 finals but the first by a European side outside their own continent.
The Dutch lost both their previous finals in 1974 and 1978 to hosts West Germany and Argentina respectively.
Brazil and Argentina are the only teams to have won the trophy on a foreign continent with Brazil successful in Sweden in 1958, Mexico 1970, the United States in 1994 and Japan in 2002, while Argentina won in Mexico in 1986.
A European victory in Sunday’s final at Soccer City, Johannesburg, means they will have 10 World Cup successes, one more than South America.