Preamble: Here it is, the biggest of the semi-finals: the clash between the tournaments last two unbeaten teams. Holland are favourites, primarily because of their inventive forward players – with Wesley Scheijder in refulgent form and brittle Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie set to make a record two consecutive starts, the Uruguayan defence will surely be stretched …. and it's already perilously close to breaking point, what with injury having claimed captain and centreback Diego Lugano and suspensions ruling out left-back Jorge Fucile and auxiliary goalkeeper Luis Suarez. But Uruguay do still have Diego Forlan, and doubts persist about that Dutch defence, especially with Nigel De Jong no longer on hand to protect it, and Uruguay have also been an admirably contrary presence in this tournament, hammering the hosts and then fiendishly ousting the darlings of the moment, Ghana. So this is no gimme for the Dutch. Nevertheless, I'm saying 2-1 to Holland, with Dirk Kuyt scoring at least once.
Meanwhile, and a propos of nothing, a word on the The Last Taboo: Loaf around London or any major city in these metrosexual times and it won't be long before you see men doing things that would have outraged, or at least baffled, their forefathers. Such as don moisturiser and "guy-liner". Or sashay down the street with man-bags. Or work in a call-centre. But there is one thing that even now no man feels comfortable doing … one boundary that, even in his sarong-and-nail-varnish-wearing pomp, David Beckham never dared to over-step … one convention that no shock-rocker has ever had the courage to defy. So we need a pioneer, a ground-breaker. Who amongst ye will be the first man to be seen knitting in public?
Here are the teamsUruguay: 1-Fernando Muslera; 3-Diego Godin, 6-Mauricio Victorino, 5-Walter Gargano, 16-Maximiliano Pereira, 22-Martin Caceres, 15-Diego Perez, 11-Alvaro Pereira, 17-Egidio Arevalo, 7-Edinson Cavani, 10-Diego Forlan.
Netherlands: 1-Maarten Stekelenburg; 12-Khalid Boulahrouz, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 7-Dirk Kuyt, 6-Mark van Bommel, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 14-Demy de Zeeuw, 11-Arjen Robben; 9-Robin van Persie.Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Match pointers• These sides have met on four occasions in total, with Uruguay winning three times and the Dutch one
• The two sides' only previous meeting in the World Cup came in 1974 when the Dutch won 2-0 in a group game, with Jonny Rep netting both goals. Diego Forlán's father, Pablo, was on the losing side
• Wesley Sneijder has now scored five goals in his last seven internationals
• Uruguay have already broken their own record, set in 2002, for games played in a single World Cup, including qualifying rounds. The South Americans have played 25 games, and are guaranteed to play two more including tomorrow's match
• Three of Diego Forlán's four goals in World Cup finals history have come from outside the box
7:10pm: As ITV's panel prattling on about how surprising it is to see harmony in the Dutch camp - exagerrating the divisions of the past and reinforcing the view that English society remains stubbornly anti-intellectual (and anti-male knitting), afraid of anyone who does not fear to speak his mind - let's see what's happening in Uruguay. "There could be some unhappy brides here in Montevideo right now," writes Nick Foster of www.uruguaynow.com. "The main Registry Office in the Old Town will close its doors at 3 pm local time (so in a few minutes), so a number of weddings scheduled for this afternoon had to be rushed through this morning. Meanwhile, there has been a run on tranquilizers in local chemists and city hospitals are primed for a spike in heart attacks later today. As you can imagine, there is tension and excitement here in equal measure. And there still may be a few neutrals cheering on Uruguay: British novelist Martin Amis, who is a regular visitor, told local paper El País that Uruguayans are the "most charming and civilized" people he's ever met. Of course, this was pre-Suárez..."
7:13pm: "I watched Spielberg's 'Munich' again yesterday - a film about a gang of men travelling across continents to avenge a despicable act of grotesquery," reveals Steven Hughes. "I wonder if it's in Luis Suárez's DVD collection? Please, everyone, send all of your spare false beards, monocles and latex fake noses to Holland, care of AFC Ajax. Thank you."
7:16pm: "I can't think of a single team that has benefited even once by sticking with underperforming starters, especially the star non-goal-scorers," carps Michael Clarke. "They've all been burnt. Spain: Torres. Holland: van Persie. USA: Altidore. England: ehem... Brazil: Kaka. Portugal: Ronaldo. Argentina: Messi. So how many goals in total have this group come through with in the end, two? On the other hand, a team like Paraguay that had the sense to sit some non-performers did unusually well in the quarterfinals and suddenly found much greater punch. It will be very interesting to see whether Spain sticks with Torres. Shame to see van Persie on the field again, however." Your point is a fair one - except for the implication that Argentina should have dropped Messi, who performed well even if he didn't score - and I agree that it would be a major surprise if Spain didn't drop Torres because they, unlike Holland, have excellent replacements. By contrast, Van Persie at 80% is better than Huntelaar at 100%, I reckon.
7:20pm: "My mate Fred (RIP)'s brother Tom pioneered knitting for men," claims Dan Smith. "Used to bang out a few stitches in Chesterfield pubs in the early 90s if I remember rightly. Lent me a Fugazi tape once, though I'm not sure the two were connected - straight edge being more about not drinking in difficult spectacles than a bit of 'knit one, pearl one'."
7:23pm: Out trudge the players, looking tense - perhaps because of the stakes of the match, or maybe because of all the formalities Fifa make them endure before kick-off.
National anthems: We all know them by now and Uruguay's remains more lovable - a sprightly number with menacing undertones. The Dutch one is a grim dirge.
Omen: You may or may not be aware that Uruguayan national team often refer to themselves as "Los Charruas", who were an indigenous people in South America. Wikipedia tell us that "In situations in which Uruguayans display bravery in the face of overwhelming odds the expression "garra charrúa" (Charrúan claws) is used to refer to victory in the face of certain defeat." Will there be garra charrúa tonight?
1 min: Within seconds of kick-off Van Bommel crunches into Pereira to win possession for Holland.
2 min: It's an enterprising start from Uruguay, contrary to expectations. But, also contrary to expectations, Holland have defended solidly so far, notably Mathijsen, who has just nicked the ball off Forlan with a fine challenge. "I have no clue why you brought it up, but if you want to see a man knitting in public, look no further than to the Green Party of Germany, for example Chris Michalak from Bochum," tips Radbet Grimmig.
4 min: Kuyt goes close! The Uruguayan keeper flapped at a Robben cross and the Liverpool dynamo pounced on the ball 14 yards out but, under pressure, banged his shot over the bar.
6 min: Pereira clearly has a low opinion of Holland's goalkeeper .... because he's just tried to beat him from 45 yards. And it was such a wayward effort that billions of viewers all over the world now have a low opinion of Pereira. So it goes.
8 min: Kuyt chugs down the left and hoists in a decent cross. Robben, of all people, tries to out-jump the defender but fails. "In Toronto on Queen Street West (oh the irony) there is a shop that has knitting classes for men," reports Peter Corway. "You'd want to be one heck of a man to do it though, as there is huge windows at the front of the shop so passer-bys can gawk in and shame the menly-men knitting 'til their hearts content." Reactionaries.
11 min: It's open stuff so far. Holland threatened to make a breakthrough at one end and then Uruguay hirtled down the other and Cavani picked out Forlan with a beautiful chipped pass ... but it turned out that Forlan had ventured fractionally offside. "Paul, I must protest against your description of our national anthem as a 'grim dirge'," bellows Frank Futselaar. "Not only is it the oldest national anthem in the world, it's contents are also appealing in that they barely mention the Dutch at all. It was a revolutionary song during the Dutch revolt against the Spanish empire and mentiones both how our founding father was a German and how much we respect the king of Spain. This could be a bit of an issue if we make it to the final." Thanks for the knowledge. But while it seems the sentiments are laudatory, the tune is still funereal.
14 min: Maxi Pereira races down the right from his right-back berth - epitomising Uruguay's surprising can-do spirit - but on this occasion it was misguided, for Periera was dispossessed as soon as he entered the Dutch box. "Did I just see that Suarez has a bandage on his finger?" gasps Graeme McNeil. "Did he injure himself while making the save of god? Or is he simply protecting the appropriate digit to give the world the bird when he holds up the world cup on Sunday?"
16 min: A mistake by Vitorino gifts the ball to Van Persie wide on the left. The Arsenal man tricks his way past one defender before Maxi Pereira charges to Uruguay's rescue. "I was obviously comfortable with my masculinity - or a little confused - as a boy growing up in a mining village in the North-Eastm" admits Robert Spencer. "I learnt to knit from my gran at the age of 6, and attempted to knit my Action Man a scarf. Got bored after a while so had to sew it on to him as it was way too short (my sewing skills came in handy though)."
GOAL! Holland 1-0 Uruguay (Van Bronckhorst 18') That is an absolute screamer! The full-back collected the ball wide on the left and then simply let fly from 35 yards .... past the keeper's desperate dive ... and straight into the top corner! If you happened to see Holland's 2-2 draw with the Republic of Ireland in Amsterdam in September 2000, you'll know it's not the first time he's done that. Here it is, in fact.
20 min: Holland are seeking a second and Uruguay are not coping well with the pressure. Maxi Pareira is booked for a dangerous tackle on Sneijder.
22 min: Holland are denying Uruguay any chance to settle themselves, pressing them high up the pitch and forcing their opponents to fling long hopeful long balls towards Forlan. "I have a friend in Ireland who knit his Action Man an entire kit, including a tent," exults Meg Fairfax-Fielding. "Of course, he was about 10, and lived in rural Ireland (is that redundant?), so it wasn't like the whole village was watching and laughing."
24 min: Maxi Pereira hurls a long cross into the Dutch box and Heitinga looks less than assured under it, scrabbling the ball behind for a corner. "I can't be the first one to point out that it's Holland who scored, not Uruguay as it says at the top of your article?" says Alice Elliot, who is, in fact, about the 666th person to point that out. I, in turn, have pointed it out to our technical folks here - because it's not something I have any control over, would you believe.
25 min: Fight! Fight Fight! After Holland clear a corner, there's some naughtiness of the ball ... at least that's what the reactions of both sets of players suggest, and the ref is having a hard job pacifying them. No replay yet so all I can tell you is that De Zeeuw is down in need of treatment having received a boot in the face clearing an attempted overhead kick by Caceres, who's booked for dangerous play, which seems harsh.
27 min: Sneijder cops a booking do, for his part in the kerfuffle that followed the high kick. His part seemed to entail a lot of gesturing and trash-talking.
29 min: Lovely turn by Van Persie to create space for a clever pass to Robben. As he makes to shoot, Caceres puts in a potentially goal-saving tackle.
31 min: More controversy! This is turning into quite a spiteful encounter. Van Bronckhorst seemed to catch Cavani in the face with his hand as the Uruguayan awaited a cross. The ref saw nothign awry but many fans did, and their booing vociferously as the failure to award a penalty.
33 min: Cavani skitters into the Dutch box and all the way to the by-line. Forlan is awaiting the cut-back ... but Holland get enough defenders in place to block it. "You can't scoff at sewing and it's practicality," asserts Dave Montez. "And I swear it actually helped me get play back in undergrad. The DIY punk girlies totally dug a guy who could sew his own pants or shirt. At least I wasn't rug hooking. God help Western Civilization once men pick that up."
35 min: Caceres hurls a mighty throw into the box - Rory Delap would have been proud of that one - but Heitinga heads it clear. Meanwhile, here's a good point from Malcolm Cullen. "Uruguay have not been getting the rub of the green from the officials - three times in the first 15 minutes incorrect offside decisions cost Uruguay when they had players clear through on goal. As for the Netherland's goal, van Bommell had a shocking challenge on Gargano, aiming his studs at the Uruguayan's shin. It's only because the 'dirty, cheating' Latin American got straight up and got on with the game rather than shriek and lie stricken on the floor, like Robben just did."
37 min: Alvaro Periera crosses from the left. Forlan gets ahead of his marker and nuts just wide. The threat from Uruguay is growing ...
39 min: Kuyt cuts in from the left and shots straight at the keeper.
GOAL! Holland 1-1 Uruguay (Forlan 41) That's another fine goal! But the keeper's part in it was embarrassing. Forlan picked up the ball some 32 yards out, swivelled quickly and fired straight at goal with his left foot. It swirled a little, but not enough to justify the keeper allowing the ball to fly into the middle of the goal. Uruguay deserve that.
43 min: Van Bommel perpetrates another foul and again escapes without a booking. It is, at least, a freekick to Uruguay, from wide on the lefte ... but perhaps not too far wide for Forlan to shoot. Indeed not - he sends a powerful curler goal-ward ... but this time the keeper got his body behind it and clutched it competently to his chest.
45 min: Maxi Pereira, who has been haring down the right flank for most of the match, charges forward again, but Kuyt, somehow managing to keep up with him, pokes the ball out for a throw-in. "Does this semi-final represent the most hirsute team in the world cup against the least?" wonders Oliver Dungey. "And does the Jabulani-like shininess of the Dutch heads allow them to travel quicker at altitude?"
45+2 min: Excellent tackle by Godin to nick the ball off Robben at the edge of the Uruguayan box.
Half-time: It's been an intriguing if not spectacular half and the score is just. Uruguay responded well to falling behind and have exposed the fragility at Holland's core. Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie have all been quite constrained. Van Bommel is lucky to be on the pitch. As for for Forlan, well, my colleague James Dart tells me that Opta are saying he's the first player to score three goals from outside the box in a single World Cup since Lothar Matthäus in 1990. So there.
Half-time thoughts: "I know that the Uruguayans are the designated villains, but don't the names of the entire Dutch team sound like those of villains fromgothic novels?" gnashes Karl Tulinius. "Vampires: Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Robin van Persie, Demy de Zeeuw. Werewolves: Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben. Mad scientists: Maarten Stekelenburg, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen. And to top it all, Khalid Boulahrouz is already called The Cannibal."
"For the Dutch, any game above sea level is at altitude," tuts William Hawxhurst.
"Ian Johnson, a former Boise State, All-American, Running Back, in American Gridiron Football, used to crochet all the time," reports Scott Davenport.
ITV intrigue: A surprising number of you have written to ask why Clive Tylsdley is all on his lonesome in the gantry tonight. Know that the man himself explain at the start of the evening that habitual accomplice Jim Beglin was taken ill earlier today. Nothing serious, apparently, so don't go worrying yourselves.
Knitting intrigue: "Jacques Plante, who was a famous hockey goalie about 50 years ago, and who was the pioneer of the face mask, knitted to relax," hollers Doug Campebll. "As a boyhood fan of Les Canadiens, it impelled me to try knitting, but I was totally unsuccessful (and bored)."
46 min: Holland appear to have realised they need to find more creativity so they've made a change: Van der Vaart is on for De Zeeuw.
47 min: Kuyt slips a nice ball through to Van Bronckhorst ... who had lumbered offside.
48 min: Holland circulate the ball for the sake of it. Uruguay let them. But as soon as Robben receives it in a potentially dangerous location, two converge on him and dispossess him.
50 min: Cleared off the line by Van Bronckorst! Holland had had all of the ball this half but done nothing with it thanks to Uruguay's diligent defending. Eventually Boulahrouz suffered a concentration lapse and sent a weak back-pass towards his keeper. Forlan tried to intercept, Stekeleneberg managed to prod it out wide, where Cavani collected and lofted towards goal. Which is where Van Bronckhorst came in, nodding to safety. "Like Johnny Giles, van Bommel is a skilful player who is so late with his so nasty fouls that he gets away with them," reckons Gary Naylor before having a vision: "It'll be great to see his career end tonight."
52 min: Victorino launches a long ball for Cavani to chase. He's got the jump on Mathijsen, but not on the keeper, who surges off his line to clear. "It's not whether, but what you knit that is the true measure of the man," hollers Zachary Howard. "Beer cozy: huzzah, chaps! Tea cozy: Oh, matron!"
54 min: Sneijder whips in a freekick from the left. Mathijsen leaps to meet it but donks his header high and wide.
56 min: Fine work down the left by Alvaro Pereira, who forces Boulahrouz into the concession of a corner. Forlan delivers. Stekelenberg punches 25 yards clear. "Rosey Grier, the rather large professional American football player, did needlepoint," divulges Kat. "In fact, he wrote a book in 1973 - Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men. It has patterns for, among other things, fishing equipment and teeth related items."
58 min: Holland are looking stolid and unimaginative. Uruguay have more vim and ideas at the moment ... and just as I'd finished typing that, Robben scurried down the right, past two defenders and into the box before winning a corner. All that ensues is a free to Uruguay, as Heitinga dumbly pushes Alvaro Pereira to the ground in a bid to win the ball.
60 min: Holland attempted to thread their way through the middle like manly seamstresses, but they shall not pass Uruguay, who had got the garra charrúa tonight and no mistake (for those of you joining us late, that's Uruguayan speak for 'the battle fever'). "Each time I see a close-up of Victorino, I think that he has got the funkiest beard that I have seen in this World Cup (Rigobert Song's blonde dreads and beard were a bit too 'Neptune' - Copyright 'Lawro' - for me)," strums Khalid Majid. "I am sure he plays bass guitar for a "Nu Metal Linkinpark" wannabe band."
62 min: Cavani heads a Van der Vaart corner clear at the front post.
64 min: Freekick to Uruguay after yet another late tackle by Van Bommel ... who yet again escapes a booking. What, precisely, is going on? Still, Forlan may exact retribution because this is certainly within his range ...
65 min: Forlan sends an arching freekick over the wall. Stekelenberg bats it away to safety.
68 min: Ooooh! Van der Persie took down a long ball into the Uruguayan box and played a canny reverse ball to Van der Vaart, who fizzed a shot goalward from 14 yards and a slight angle. Muslera saved .... but the ball rebounds to Robben, who could score .... but instead blazes the ball over the bar! It was a tight angle, but still very scorable.
GOAL! Holland 2-1 Uruguay (Sneijder 69) Uruguay are outraged that that goal stands! Sneijder shot from the edge of the area, it took a nick off a defender and then flew through the legs off Van Persie, who was standing in an offside position. The keeper seemed slightly unsighted so dived too late to prevent the ball nestling in the bottom corner of the net.
70 min: The Dutch goal should not have stood - Van Persie was clearly interfering with play as he dummied the ball - but it will hardly be rememebred as one of football's great injustices, as the striker was only offside by about a centimetre so it is understandable the officials missed it. Luis Suarez, this was not.
GOAL! Golland 3-1 Uruguay (Robben 72) And there is no debate about that goal. Neat Dutch interplay culminated with Kuyt clipping an inviting cross into the six-yard box. Robben met it with a powerful header that he directed low into the net from six yards.
75 min: Uruguay have been knocked for six here. There's no sign of a comeback. "Anyone else have the misfortune to be listening to BBC 5 Live commentary?" asks Nick Carter. "According to the near-hysterical Alan Green, the match is utterly terrible, the presence of empty seats is a disgrace that undermines the success of the tournament, Van Bronckhorst's goal was purely due to bad goalkeeping, the stadium has no atmosphere, etc etc, each fresh outrage conveyed in the tones of a maiden aunt who's just discovered a jazz mag under her pew in church. I'm sorely tempted to switch to Talksport, against all I've previously held dear." Alan Green is an irritating noise.
76 min: Uruguay substitution: Alvaro Pereira, who has played well, trundles off, to be replaced by Abreu, author of that splendid winning spotkick against Ghana.
77 min: Boulahrouz booked for a bad late challenge on Caceres, and because he's not Van Bommel.
79 min: After a Uruguay attack breaks down, Holland feed Robben, who gallops into space down the right ... but fails to halt in time to avoid the ball running into the hands of the keeper. "So it looks like Holland are going to the final," surmises Ben Hendy. "If they manage to win the world cup it will be like a lifetime achievement award or Martin Scorsese's Oscar for The Departed: it won't necessarily be a victory merited on their performances this year (though they've risen to the occasion when they've had to), but it will be just reward for how well they have frequently played over the last 40 years without just reward..." It'll be like France's victory in '98, then.
81 min: Several of you are telling me that upon repeated viewing of the Holland's second goal, Van Persie was not offside when Sneijder took his shot. Not having seen replays, I can't confirm that. But for what it's worth, Clive Tyldlsey still reckons it was a scandal.
83 min: Here's a pity: Forlan is coming off, to be replaced by Fernandez. There's no visible trace of an injury, but presumably he is not fully fit, otherwise there is no reason to withdraw him. He has looked lively all night.
85 min: Holland should have scored a fourth but Robben made a mess of it. They cut Uruguay apart with a lightning break, Van Persie providing a lovely touch through to Robben. But as the forward tried to manoeuvre the ball onto his left foot, Godin stretched out a leg to deflect the ball back to the keeper.
86 min: Van der Vaart's shot from 25 yards trundles into the arms of Muslera.
88 min: Holland substitution: a beaming Robben jogs off, high-fiving his team-mates on the way, and on bounces Elia.
89 min: Van Bommel clatters into Fernandez to abort a Uruguayan counter-attack. The ref awards a freekick .... but again no card. Bizarre.
GOAL! Holland 3-2 Uruguay (M Pereira 90+1) A lovely goal, but is it too late? Gargano nudged a short freekick to Pereira, who from the edge of the area sent a delicious low curler into the far corner.
90+3 min: Frantic defending from Holland as they repel a Uruguayan bombardment.
90+4 min: Hilarious! The Dutch fans rejoice as they think the ref has blown the final whistle ... but in fact he was awarding a freekick to Holland. Van Bommel, too, thought it was the end of the game so kicked the ball away in celebration .... and cops a booking!
Full-time: Holland are into the World Cup final. There's a bit of a ruckus as they celebrate and some Uruguayan players express their displeasure with a few of them as well as with the referee. No doubt they're unhappy about Van Bommel's persistent fouling and Holland's second goal. They can be reasonably satisfied with their performance, however, as, despite key absentees, they gave the Dutch a true test. And Holland only scraped through it. They won't be favourites in the final.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.