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Uruguay Experiences the Pleasure of Rough Justice

That Uruguay exuberance was short-lived. AP

This was rough justice on Uruguay, which some would say was exactly the kind of justice they deserved. It wasn't so much the handball in the last minute of their quarter-final against Ghana that had riled so many. It was the subsequent crowing about Luis Suarez having the hand of God and even, according to his coach, that of the Virgin Mary.

So it was slightly poetic that in its World Cup semi-final against Holland, Uruguay was finally undone, 3-2, by the wing of an unholy spirit. Special Section: 2010 World Cup

Arjen Robben, he of the persistent diving and insistent skill, headed a cross from Dirk Kuyt into the corner of the net to drive a decisive stake into Uruguayan chests - and no, that is not a misprint of "cheats."

The cheers in Ghana would have been as loud as they were in South Africa and Holland. The Ghanaians still insist that even though Suarez handled the ball was already over the line.

So it was something of a small and godly mercy that it was a refereeing decision with 20 minutes left in the game that changed it for good. The Uruguayans will no doubt claim that the assistant referee's was the hand of the devil.

As Holland blundered forward with more hope than imagination, Sneijder finally worked himself a little space. His shot from the left side headed low toward goal.

It took two devious deflections then passed by Robin van Persie whom the assistant referee judged to be either onside or not interfering with play. Another assistant on another day in another mood might have raised his flag.

To my eyes, Van Persie was just onside. To the eyes of the Uruguayan players, it seemed otherwise.

In sport, people often talk about a game that neither side deserved to lose. For long periods, this was a game that neither side deserved to win.

The game began with an atmosphere like a club in which the boys and the girls stare each other down, wondering who will be the first to ask for a dance.

And then Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst seemed to have had enough of the politeness. After 17 minutes, he unleashed a shot from 35 yards.

It had such precise control and venom that even the Jabulani paid it full respect, not moving an inch as it darted towards Muslera's left-hand post and introduced itself firmly and rebounded into the net. Uruguay responded with a foul by Maxi Pereira on Robben that had all the crude pointlessness of frustration.

Still, Uruguay kept its structure. The players were like workmen who were too afraid of the foreman to tell him that the building might collapse.

Yet Holland didn't want to exert its full force. It sat back.

Uruguay carried on packing the midfield with as many destructive bodies as they could.

When Holland had the ball, the Uruguayans were excellent at denying space. When Uruguay had the ball, they seemed a little too surprised to know what to do with it.

Uruguayan coach Oscar Tabarez, who resembles a depressed undertaker, held his hands in front of him as if he were in church, ready to confess to something heinous.

Diego Forlan was his Xanax. Given even more space than exists in Ron Artest's head, Forlan's speculative effort with his left foot was heading straight for Stekelenburg's left hand.

For reasons beyond fathoming, the Dutch keeper was leaden-footed and leaden-handed. He waved his left hand as if he could merely dismiss the shot. Instead it was the shot that might have dismissed the Dutch.

The second half began with the Dutch reminding themselves that to win it, they needed to score. Van Der Vaart, a more attacking midfield option, came on as a statement of intent.

Until just before Sneijder's goal, Holland had imposed no control. Uruguay, if anything, looked slightly more comfortable.

After the disgraceful display of hubris following the handball of Luis Suarez, Uruguay made great efforts to show its positive side. Without Suarez, Forlan looked forlorn. He worked himself into the ground for his undertaker but he enjoyed little support.

With Uruguay tiring, Van der Vaart's shot was parried by Muslera. Robben moved in on the rebound, but he hit it with his right foot and made a mess.

The existence of that chance seemed to give Holland just enough impetus to stagger forward a little more. Two goals within three minutes reminded Uruguay that it just didn't have the players, the energy, or indeed the karma.

Many Ghanaians and neutrals took a little time to consider the karmic justice that Suarez would now not be playing in a World Cup Final.

However, just when they thought the bad guy lying on the floor was really dead, he reached for the gun one more time.

He had one bullet, a goal by Maxi Pereira.

But then he offered a theatrical swoon before finally slumping back.

Holland, a country that has never won the World Cup, is now in the final.

Holland has another chance to repair history, to give its crazy, humor-filled, Orange-garbed fans something to remember long beyond disputes about handballs, penalties, red cards, total football and total dysfunction among the players.

Holland had won. Was it just? Just about.