Uruguay: The Last Leg South America Has To Stand On : Show Me Your Cleats! - World Cup 2010 Blog Despite all the talk of this being South America's World Cup tournament, only Uruguay survives. On Tuesday, the team will play Arjen Robben and the Netherlands.
NPR logo Uruguay: The Last Leg South America Has To Stand On

Uruguay: The Last Leg South America Has To Stand On

Edison Cavani (far left), Edigio Arevalo, Alvaro Pereira, Mauricio Victorino, Diego Godin and Luis Suarez of Uruguay run during a training session in Cape Town. Uruguay faces the Netherlands in the semifinals on Tuesday. Roberto Candia/AP hide caption

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Roberto Candia/AP

Viva South America! Er, not quite.

Like most pundits, we overinvested badly in South American futures.

Despite all the talk of this being South America's tournament, only Uruguay survives.

The country's most illustrious neighbors — Argentina and Brazil — were sent packing in rather stark reminders that football is a team sport.

The skills of Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain were not enough, as Argentina was cut to ribbons by Germany on Saturday.

Diego Maradona’s reliance on emotion rather than tactics showed up Argentina as a group of individuals rather than a cohesive unit able to overcome adversity.

As for Brazil, they lost the plot against the Netherlands and disintegrated after the Dutch had the temerity to equalize.

Paraguay worked very hard against Spain, but was undone by David Villa’s moment of magic.

And so: Viva Uruguay!

But the odds are against Oscar Tabarez’s team.

Old Europe anyone?

Tuesday

Uruguay vs. Netherlands in Cape Town at 2:30 p.m. ET

Storyline: The hand of Luis Suarez saved Uruguay against Ghana. But the South Americans didn’t really deserve to survive against the Black Stars.

So, Uruguay will need to demonstrate a lot more pedigree against the Dutch. Tabarez will be without Suarez after his sending-off for that goal-line "save" against Ghana, which is a major loss.

For the Netherlands, the return to fitness of Arjen Robben is a huge plus. Also Wesley Sneijder, one of the smallest players on the park against Brazil, has already established himself as one of the players of the tournament. His headed goal against the South Americans in a penalty area full of giants was the catalyst to Brazil becoming unhinged. But the Dutch are dodgy at the back.

Key players: Diego Forlan must lead Uruguay’s depleted strike force without Suarez. Wesley Sneijder to continue his fine form.

Prediction: No octopus needed here — Netherlands.

Wednesday

Germany vs. Spain in Durban at 2:30 p.m. ET

Storyline: Germany has played five matches scoring four goals in three of them. This young team, marshaled by Joachim Low, has brought a breath of fresh air to the tournament by destroying Australia, England and Argentina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger was superb against Argentina, Miroslav Klose is one goal away from equaling Ronaldo’s World Cup scoring record and the team is playing with great confidence.

Spain, pre-tournament favorites, scrambled through against Paraguay with David Villa again finding the net.

But Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and later Cesc Fabregas, labored to unlock a stubborn South American defense. The Germans will be even more disciplined and far more effective on the counterattack.

Key players: Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil for Germany against Xavi and Iniesta in the center of the park for Spain.

Prediction: Vorsprung und technik to gain revenge for 2008 defeat by Spain in the European Championships.

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