Africa cheers as the Dutch beat Suarez’s Uruguay

By Nicholas Norbrook

Posted on Wednesday, 7 July 2010 13:15

Most African fans were supporting the Netherlands, who reached the World Cup final at the expense of Ghana’s conquerors Uruguay in a dramatic five-goal semi-final

Will Africa ever forgive Uruguay for Luis Suarez’s last-minute handball on the line that prevented Ghana from continuing on their magical World Cup odyssey? Probably not, and the event will pass into Cup lore just like another South American “Hand of God”.

South Africa’s Sunday Times painted horns on the top of Suarez’s head here, and the chatter on the radio was uniquely hostile to the Uruguayans, who had “betrayed the spirit of football” according to one fairly puffed-up commentator. So it was no surprise that the Dutch had the best of the support, both in the Cape Town Greenpoint Stadium, and across the bars and “fanzones” where the match was being watched.

There were of course dissenting voices. For Sentletse Diakane: “It would be a shame if their good play throughout the tournament were to be eclipsed by just one incident.” No matter – the World Cup is a partisan affair. “I have to be wearing my lucky orange hat!”, said one Holland supporter, to the chagrin of the people standing behind him.

And for even for the impartial viewer, Holland v Uruguay was a fascinating spectacle: swift passing, glorious Dutch skill, compact and indomitable Uruguayan spirit, plenty of goals, and, inevitably from two sides not averse to a bit of play-acting, the odd controversial incident to spice up the evening. The first goal was perhaps the shot of the tournament, scored by Holland’s captain and defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst from over 40 yards, it rocketed in just beyond the keeper’s grasp. But not to be outdone, Uruguay’s key man, and one of the tournament’s standout players, Diego Forlan, picked up a ball from the halfway line before stepping beyond two defenders and firing a curling effort into the Dutch net just before half-time.

Forlan really has grabbed this competition by the scruff of the neck and the 31 year-old has made a huge impression on it. No doubt rattled, the Dutch rallied well with first Wesley Sneijder and then Arjen Robben finding the net in quick succession; seemingly putting the game out of reach for the South Americans at 3-1. But a late free kick in Holland’s area saw a training ground move transposed to the grand stage, giving us the wonderful spectacle of a frantic last minute goal chase by Uruguay, helped by some eccentric time keeping by the referee. It wasn’t to be for La Celeste.

Did they do enough to recover their honour? The jury is still out. Was this a vintage World Cup semi-final? Certainly.

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