FIFA's slightly odd decision not to impose the usual yellow-card amnesty after the group stage or second round was always going to create difficulties for somebody, and it is fortunate for the spectacle of the semifinal and the prospects of a competitive game that both Netherlands and Uruguay have been hit by suspensions, losing two key players each, and the tactical makeup of the game will depend largely on who is brought in to replace the absentees. Both also have defensive injury worries.
(As an aside, what should happen with suspensions is quite simple; cancel all the yellow cards from the group matches after the second round, then players never have a game in which they can pick up a yellow with impunity, knowing it's about to be cancelled, while also lessening the risk of players missing the semis and finals because of collecting two yellow cards for trivial or technical offenses).
The Netherlands is without the midfield anchor
Uurugay has also lost a fullback through suspension:
Out of possession Forlan and Cavani can fall back; in the ball, playing three up allows Uruguay to attack a Dutch defense that may itself be uneasy, not just because of Van der Wiel's absence, but because
Then there is the issue of De Jong. The back of the midfield really is the crux of how the Dutch have played in the World Cup, the defensiveness of De Jong and
The corollary, though, has been a loss of attacking fluency, and the sense that the Netherlands is a team in which six players defend, three attack, and Dirk Kuyt runs about. It has been effective so far -- the Netherlands is the only remaining side to have won all its games -- but not pretty, and certainly nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the Dutch were in the pre-tournament friendlies when they beat Mexico, Ghana and Hungary, rattling in 12 goals as they did so.
The Netherlands coach
For the second game running, though, the match seems likely to be decided on the Dutch right. If Robben is the dominant presence on that side, then the Dutch should win; but if he is neutered and Forlan starts running at Boulahrouz, Uruguay has a chance.