Dirk Kuyt said last night that his Holland team must seize the chance to succeed where the great Johan Cruyff side had failed in the 1970s after the current generation won a place in the World Cup final for the first time for the nation in 32 years.
The Netherlands looked to be comfortable at 3-1 up going into injury-time but a late goal from Maxi Pereira meant that they were clinging on for their place in Sunday's final in Johannesburg where they will face Spain or Germany who play tonight. The man of the match, Wesley Sneijder, scored the decisive second goal and Arjen Robben the third as Holland finally overwhelmed Uruguay in the second half.
Kuyt said: "It's an amazing feeling. Almost unreal. We said before the tournament that we could do this and get to the final. But we knew it would be a long journey. Now we are so close to the dream. We just have to keep going. Holland have been in two finals before but have not managed to go the extra yard and win it. Now we have the chance and to win the World Cup would be unbelievable, a dream come true for me."
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the 35-year-old Holland captain, scored a spectacular opening goal on 19 minutes. The former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan scored an equally impressive equaliser before half-time but Holland's commitment to attack eventually told against the more conservative Uruguay.
Bert van Marwijk becomes the first Dutch coach to reach a World Cup final since the Austrian Ernst Happel led the team to the 1978 final against Argentina. Four years earlier, they had reached the final in Munich under the leadership of Rinus Michels, the architect of the Dutch style of total football. Holland lost on both occasions.
Van Marwijk said that the victory demonstrated that his players believed they could win the tournament. "We've shown in the past that we can win matches. I saw it at Feyenoord in 2002 when we won the Uefa Cup, when we didn't always have the best players but we had the best team. You have to work like that. The players started believing that, and we cultivated this mentality in the team.
"We have banished complacency. The players started to understand they had to do that in the last few years. I kept reading it in interviews with them. [Last night] I just said to them: 'Don't let this chance slip away.' They didn't."
The Dutch coach said that if it was Germany that they faced in Johannesburg on Sunday then they would try to keep the bitter history between the two nations – on and off the pitch – out of it. He said: "I don't think in terms of revenge. I remember the match in 1974 very well. I was still playing back then, and we played a wonderful game against Germany. But that's precisely what I'm getting at: we lost that game when we should have won it. We played well and we had a unique generation. Johan Cruyff was the best footballer I ever saw. But it's just great we are back in a final."
Sneijder, who won the Champions League final with Internazionale in May, said that his team had to remember that after six victories they needed only one more to be world champions. He said: "We have five days to recover, then we've got to do it once more. For 90 minutes. I've played big finals for my club, Inter, in the last few months but this is something special. We've got to savour it, enjoy it, and give everything we have to win."
The Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez claimed erroneously that Robin van Persie was offside for Sneijder's goal. He added that Forlan, substituted with the score at 3-1 was injured and could not go on. "There's no point crying about it [the second goal] and looking for excuses," Tabarez said. "We kept trying but it didn't come off. But I'm still proud of my team.
"When it comes to looking back at this tournament, we can say that we are one of the four semi-finalists and the other three are powerhouses in Europe. I believe that we could have caused Holland real difficulty at any time. I am proud and happy with the performance of the team in these finals. My team have managed to play on an equal footing against the other teams. I couldn't have asked for more from these players."