Hup Holland Hup! Dutchmen Advance To First Final Since '78

Arjen Robben of the Netherlands.

hide captionNetherlands' Arjen Robben celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Uruguay and the Netherlands.

Fernando Vergara/AP

An eerie calm settled over many Oranje supporters before the quarterfinal against Brazil. Today, however, facing the prospect of a less formidable opponent — and after the incredible high of the last result — they seemed anxious.

"This should be a win," Karin opined, "but the Dutch tend to fizzle when there is no real pressure."

Down at the bar, some folks had other reasons to root for Holland: namely, Luis Suárez's handball against Ghana.

"If there’s such a thing as soccer karma," said Pascal, "I'd like to see it today."

If emotions were running high before the game, they were boiling over for the duration — among both players and fans. Especially in more than four minutes of action-packed, cardiac-arrest-worthy injury time.

Though the Dutch commanded and dominated possession from the get-go, the pacing felt off. They looked confident and organized, but it was hard to tell whether they had under- or over-estimated the Uruguayans — who proved again to be tough, tenacious adversaries, applying "real pressure" whenever given the chance.

At 18 minutes, 35-year-old Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst hoofed in a magnificent goal from some forty yards away, the most stunning strike of the tournament. Things were looking bright for Oranje — until Diego Forlán equalized twenty minutes later. Dutch fans were cursing the Uruguayan star — and their own keeper.

Now, it felt like anyone's game.

Twenty-five minutes into the second half, Holland got into a groove, bagging two goals in rapid succession. The first came from Wesley Sneijder (some have deemed it offside, but it looked good to me). Then Arjen Robben brought his team safely ahead of Uruguay with an indisputably legit header three minutes later.

But how safe were they, really?

Uruguay would not give up. Injury time turned into a chaotic scramble, and Maxi Pereira curled one in past Stekelenburg. It seemed possible that they might just equalize and send the game into extra time. Finally, after what felt like forever, Uzbek ref Ravshan Irmatov blew the whistle.

And I could breathe again.

Oranje overcame Celeste 3-2, making this their 25th consecutive win — and their first time reaching the finals since 1978.  Tomorrow we’ll find out if they’ll take on Germany again, as they did in '74, or Spain. It’s an extraordinary achievement to have made it this far. And if the Dutch squad keeps its confidence level high and its teamwork tight, their first-ever World Cup final victory is within reach. This is huge. Hup Holland Hup!

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