Wednesday, April 24, 2024

We have to win

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CAPE TOWN – Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk has warned his players not to underestimate Uruguay after beating World Cup favourite Brazil in the quarter-finals.“Uruguay are a strong side and we will have to be very concentrated,” he said. “They are fighters, survivors.”Uruguay, ranked No. 16 in the world, are two-time World Cup winners, while the fourth-ranked Netherlands are still trying to shake off the tag of two-time losers after talent-packed Dutch teams lost to hosts Germany and Argentina in 1974 and 1978.“We have to beat Uruguay,” Wesley Sneijder told the official Dutch supporters website. “We’re just thinking of one thing. We want to win the World Cup. This is our time.”Uruguay’s players won’t accept being called underdogs for today’s semi-final at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium, despite only making the last four thanks to Luis Suarez’s hand ball on the line in the dying seconds of extra time in the quarter-final against Ghana.“I suppose the Press have made the Netherlands favourites. I wouldn’t like to say that, it’s a World Cup semi-final,” captain Diego Lugano said. “The Netherlands and Uruguay play differently but we are at this stage on merit and we’ll just have to see what happens in the match.”Van Marwijk and his Uruguay counterpart Oscar Tabarez are both having to fill holes in their starting lineups caused by injuries and suspensions.Chief among them will be the suspended Suarez, who knows all about scoring against Dutch defences – he scored 43 times in 39 games for Ajax last season in the Eredivisie.The Dutch defence will have to be reconstructed, with right back Gregory van der Wiel and defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong both suspended after collecting their second yellow cards of the tournament against Brazil.However injury clouds hanging over Hamburg centre back Joris Mathijsen and Arsenal striker Robin van Persie have disappeared, with both declared fit to play. Mathijsen has recovered from a knee injury that forced him out of the quarter-final just minutes before kick-off and Van Persie can play despite injuring his left elbow against Brazil.Van Persie has scored just one goal in the five victories leading into the semi-finals in Cape Town, but midfielder Sneijder has picked up the scoring slack with four strikes, including both second-half goals in the comeback 2-1 defeat of five-time champion Brazil.“We’ve won five times in a row [at this World Cup] and the victory over Brazil gives us such confidence,” Netherlands captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. “Now we’re in the last four, we want to play the final.”Uruguay may be missing Suarez, but still have one of the world’s top strikers, Diego Forlan, who already has three goals in South Africa.The Netherlands are on a 24-match unbeaten run and are in their first World Cup semi-final since 1998 in France, when they lost on penalties to Brazil.The team has been criticised for sacrificing creative flair in their run to the semi-finals, but Van Marwijk is refusing to change his winning formula of dominating possession with risk-free passes and patiently waiting for a scoring opening.“Why does everyone want the coach to make changes all the time?” Van Marwijk said. “You have to have more courage not to change.”Uruguay have conceded just two goals at the World Cup, while the Dutch have allowed three. (AP)

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