Don't count Uruguay out of today's Netherlands vs Uruguay semifinal. The team has impressed at every stage of this World Cup with its rock-solid defense, deadly counterattack, and the scoring genius of one of the Cup's best strikers, Diego Forlán.
Sure, the Dutch knocked out favorites Brazil in the quarterfinal, but Uruguay's defense can choke the life out of even the most creative offense.
Here are the top three reasons why Uruguay will beat the Netherlands today:
1) Nothing to lose
Unlike the Netherlands, which now must live up to tremendous expectations after having beaten Brazil, the pressure is off of Uruguay. La Celeste – as the team is known, a reference to the team's light-blue shirts – very nearly didn’t make it to South Africa in the first place. After finishing fifth in the South American qualifying group they had to play Costa Rica in a play-off and only managed to squeak through after the central American side had a perfectly good goal disallowed for a phantom offside. Although they are rightly described as “two-time winners,” their previous World Cup victories were way back in 1930 and 1950 – they have only reached the semi-finals once since then. For a country of between three and four million, they have already done far better than most of their fans would have expected. The fact that they are the last South American team standing after the more established Brazil and Argentina crashed out in the last round only serves to emphasize the feeling of achievement.
2) Fired up by criticism
Luis Suarez may be seen as the cartoon villain of this World Cup after his goal-line handball but Uruguay’s coach, Oscar Tabarez, thinks the criticism has gone too far and is using it to create a spirit of "us against the world" among his players. “The Uruguayan people bring out their collective personal strength when they have to,” he said. “We are very proud and we are upset by this topic … don’t tell me we are cheats.”
3) They still have Diego Forlán
A foreign star of Spain’s La Liga may have been expected to light up the World Cup, but most people would have put money on Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Argentina’s Lionel Messi. While that pair have both been disappointing, Forlán, who plays for Atletico Madrid, has carried his fantastic club form into the World Cup. As well as impressing in front of the goal, he has proven adept at orchestrating play from a more traditional No. 10 position. Without the suspended Suarez, Forlan will need to be on top of his game.
Don't buy the argument? Read three reasons why the Netherlands will beat the Uruguay.
World Cup 101: