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World Cup: Uruguay, the Netherlands advance

July 3, 2010

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Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera looks up to see a penalty kick by Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan hit the bar during their World Cup quarterfinal. Uruguay won the 1-all draw with a 4-2 penalty-kick shootout on Friday in Johannesburg.

Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera looks up to see a penalty kick by Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan hit the bar during their World Cup quarterfinal. Uruguay won the 1-all draw with a 4-2 penalty-kick shootout on Friday in Johannesburg.

Uruguay 1, Ghana 1 (Uruguay wins 4-2 on penalty kicks)

Johannesburg — Uruguay survived a last-second penalty kick by Ghana in extra time and then won the shootout 4-2 after a 1-1 draw to advance to the World Cup semifinals Friday.

The wild win put the South Americans in the tournament’s last four for the first time since 1970. It eliminated the last of six African teams in the tournament and denied the continent its first-ever semifinalist.

Sebastian Abreu chipped in his penalty kick to give Uruguay the victory. It will play the Netherlands in the final four.

Ghana missed twice in the shootout, but wouldn’t have been there had Asamoah Gyan, who made two penalty kicks earlier in the tournament, not hit the crossbar on the final play of overtime.

So Uruguay, once a soccer power, most recently an afterthought, travels to Cape Town for Tuesday’s semifinal. The last nation to make the tournament, it needed a playoff against Costa Rica just to get in.

“To be among the four best (teams) in the world, there are no words for that,” star striker Diego Forlan said. “We felt we were going to faint with each penalty.”

Ghana carried the weight of an entire continent’s soccer hopes — the other five African nations did not advance — and became the third African team to exit in the quarterfinals of a World Cup. The Black Stars couldn’t replicate the opportunism they used to beat the United States in extra time six days ago.

Netherlands 2, Brazil 1

Port Elizabeth, South Africa — Soccer’s perennial World Cup underachievers from the Netherlands knocked off mighty Brazil, stamping the Dutch as a strong contender to finally win that elusive title.

Wesley Sneijder, one of the shortest players on the field, scored in the 68th minute on a header for a stunning 2-1 quarterfinals win over the five-time champions.

“It just slipped through from my bald head and it was a great feeling,” Sneijder said.

Top-ranked Brazil, which also went out in this round four years ago against France, lost its composure after it fell behind and defender Felipe Melo was ejected in the 73rd minute for stomping on the leg of Arjen Robben.

The Dutch made the championship match in 1974 and ’78, lost both, and rarely have lived up to their talent in other World Cups. They did this time, helped by an own goal off the head of unfortunate Felipe Melo that brought them into a 1-1 tie in the 53rd.

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