FIFA World Cup: Jubilation, despair as first semi finalists found

JOHANNESBURG - The Netherlands came from behind to upset mighty Brazil 2-1 on Friday and become the first team into the World Cup semifinals, setting up a meeting with Uruguay, who beat Ghana in a penalty shootout.

Ghana, Africa's last team in the competition, was left raging when what would have been a last gasp winner was prevented by a cynical handball on the goal line by Uruguay's Luis Suarez and Ghana missed the resulting penalty.

"I made the best save of the World Cup," an unrepentant Suarez said after the game.

In Port Elizabeth, Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder was involved in both second-half goals after Robinho had scored for Brazil in the 10th minute. Brazil thrilled in the first half, completely dominating the Dutch, but crumbled when Sneijder's cross in the 53rd minute was deflected into his own net by Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo. Sneijder then headed in the winner in the 68th from near the penalty spot after Dirk Kuyt flicked the ball on from a corner.

Felipe Melo was shown a direct red card in the 73rd for stamping on Netherlands winger Arjen Robben, who tormented the Brazilian defence.

"We didn't expect this," Brazil coach Dunga said. "We know that any World Cup match is about 90 minutes. In the first half we were able to play better, and we weren't able to maintain that rhythm in the second half."

The Netherlands, which extended its unbeaten streak to 24 games since losing to Australia in September 2008, will play Uruguay on Tuesday in Cape Town. Ghana failed in its mission to become the first African team to reach a World Cup semifinal.

Uruguay reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1970, beating Ghana 4-2 on penalties.

The Uruguayans advanced after Sebastian Abreu casually chipped the last penalty straight down the middle to secure the win, after a 1-1 draw following 120 minutes of play.

Asamoah Gyan had a chance to win the game, but he hit the crossbar with a penalty in the last second of extra time after Suarez was sent off.

"To be among the four best (teams) in the world, there are no words for that," said Uruguay forward Diego Forlan, who scored the equalizer with a free kick in the 55th minute. "We felt we were going to faint with each penalty."

In Saturday's quarterfinals, Argentina plays Germany in Cape Town and Spain takes on Paraguay in Johannesburg.

Germany coach Joachim Loew sought to tone down the pre-match criticism of Argentina by saying his players respect their quarterfinal opponents.

Several players criticized Argentina ahead of Saturday's match and Loew said there was "freedom of speech" in his team.

He then proved it Friday by calling Argentina "incredibly aggressive" on the field.

Loew said Argentina is "physical to the limit" and that he expected the "greatest possible resistance" from the South Americans.

Africa was dealt another blow before kickoff on Friday when FIFA threatened to suspend Nigeria from world football unless the country's government overturns its ban on the national team following its elimination in the group stage last week.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has until Monday evening to back down on his threat to pull the Nigerian Football Federation out of international competition for two years.

England's Football Association decided to retain coach Fabio Capello despite the team's disappointing World Cup campaign.

Capello has a contract through to the 2012 European Championship, but England's struggle to qualify second in its group before being emphatically beaten by Germany in the round of 16 led the FA to say it would take two weeks to review the Italian's position.

In the end, it only took the FA five days to confirm that Capello would fulfill his contract.

"We will look to introduce new players to give the team new energy and I will use all my experience to take England forward," Capello said. "I am extremely proud to be the England manager, it means so much to me and I am determined to succeed."

Laurent Blanc was officially appointed as France coach to replace Raymond Domenech at a French Football Federation council meeting following its calamitous World Cup.

Striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for abusing Domenech, resulting in the rest of the squad refusing to train. France lost its final group game to go out for the second straight tournament without winning a match, after its first-round exit from Euro 2008.

Council member Lilian Thuram, who played alongside Blanc as France won the 1998 World Cup, said Patrice Evra's role in the training boycott that led to the defender losing the France captaincy should have repercussions.

"I asked that Patrice Evra does not play again for the France team," Thuram said after the FFF meeting. "I think there is a minimum amount of respect to have."

Greece's new coach, Fernando Santos, says the team will adopt a different playing style, signaling a departure from the defensive tactics employed by his predecessor, Otto Rehhagel. Greece was eliminated in the first round in South Africa.

A Briton and an American were arrested for ticket touting at the World Cup.

South Africa police said a weeklong investigation resulted in the arrests of 38-year-old Karen Sorenson and 39-year-old Brendan Evans, a Zimbabwe-born US citizen, at their hotel in Sandton, in northern Johannesburg.

-AP

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