The style of play of the teams in Group E is probably more distinct than in any other 2010 World Cup group. The Netherlands: technically superb. Denmark: tenacious and physical. Japan: speedy and industrious. Cameroon: physical, but individually talented.
The Netherlands marched through qualifying for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ with a perfect record, winning all eight of its qualifiers whilst scoring 17 goals and conceding only two. They finished 2009 ranked third in the Fifa World Rankings, but the concern is that this is a side that some times suffers inexplicable defeats.
In Euro 2008, for example, the Dutch looked almost unstoppable after winning their group games by scores of 3-0 over Italy, 4-1 over France, and 2-0 over Romania. Yet in the quarterfinals they suffered a shock 3-1 loss to Russia after extra time.
In 2009, there were no losses for the Dutch, however. They won six matches and drew four, scoring 18 and conceding only four goals.
The Netherlands are traditionally among the most technically proficient teams in the game and their passing can be a thing of beauty, but it’s the cutting edge they will be looking for in South African in 2010.
Assistant coach Frank de Boer, their second most capped player of all time, told the Fifa website: “We have a mission: that mission is to be champions of the world.” They have the players to do it. What they will need in South Africa will be consistency throughout the month-long tournament.
- End of 2009 Fifa ranking: 3
- Appearances: 8
- Best results: runner-up 1974, 1978
- Player to watch: captain and defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst, midfielders Rafael van der Vaart, Mark van Bommel, strikers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben
Playing on African soil and as Africa’s highest ranked team – at number 11 in the Fifa World Rankings at the end of 2009 – Cameroon will have high aspirations for the first World Cup to be held in Africa.
Much will depend on striker Samuel Eto’o. His haul of nine goals in 11 qualifiers is evidence of his status as a world class talent. However, the Indomitable Lions also have a good mix of experience to guide the less experienced members of their squad.
Cameroon is a coached by Paul Le Guen, who is best known for leading French club Olympique Lion to the Ligue 1 title three times in succession. After signing on as coach of Cameroon, the Indomitable Lions, who had only one point from two qualifying games, found their form and booked their place in South Africa.
Cameroon has an enviable record in the 2000s, winning the Olympic Games in 2000, the African Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002, and the All Africa Games in 2003 and 2007. The World Cup is, of course, a step up, but Cameroon has established itself as a consistent continental power and good things will be expected of Samuel Eto’o and company.
- End of 2009 Fifa ranking: 11
- Appearances: 5
- Best result: quarterfinals 1990
- Players to watch: defenders Geremi and Rigobert Song, midfielder Jean Makoun, and striker Samuel Eto’o
Japan brings a fast-moving style, featuring good ball movement, to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. They have, at times in the past, had problems turning their possession into goals, but during 2009 they scored a lot of goals.
Their results included 6-0 and 4-0 thrashings of Hong Kong, a 5-0 pummeling of Togo, and 4-0 crushings of Chile and Belgium. Finland was beaten 5-1. Included in the Japanese results was a 4-3 win over Ghana on neutral ground. Their only significant margin of defeat happened at the hands of the Netherlands, who beat them 3-0 in Enschede. In a match late in the year, they played to a goalless draw against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
In 1998, Hidetoshi Nakata showed the world what he was capable of on the World Cup stage, performing brilliantly in the midfield, which resulted in him signing a contract to play in Serie A with Perugia. Japanese supporters will hope that another midfielder, Shunsuke Nakamura, will have a similar impact upon their games. At age 31, he is not a newcomer, but the fact that Spanish club Espanyol signed him from Glasgow Celtic at the end of 2009 shows he is still performing at a very high level.
With victories in three of the last five Asian Cups, Japan has established a tradition of winning and the confidence that comes with that goes a long way towards continuing that success. They will certainly want to improve on their record at Germany 2006 when they were beaten 3-1 by Australia, drew goalless with Croatia, and went down 4-1 to Brazil.
- End of 2009 Fifa ranking: 43
- Appearances: 3
- Best result: round of 16 2002
- Players to watch: defender and captain Yuji Nakazawa, and midfielders Junichi Inamoto, Shunsuke Nakamura, and Keisuke Honda
Denmark missed out on Germany 2006 and two years later failed to qualify for Euro 2008, but they’re back on the world stage for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They booked their spot by topping their qualifying group ahead of highly rated Portugal, which occupies fifth place in the world rankings.
They’re a team which functions better than the some of its parts, although they do have a good number of players whose names will be familiar to fans of Europe’s major leagues. Typically, Denmark is a team with a tough defence, but looking through the quality names they boast in midfield and attack, they could provide a shock or two in South Africa.
The fact that they topped their Group ahead of Portugal, and even won away from home against the Portuguese, suggests that this is a dark horse team to be wary of.
During 2009, the Danes played 11 matches, winning five, drawing four, and losing only two.
Although they have qualified for the World Cup only three times previously, the Danes have an enviable record of having always progressed beyond the first round.
In 1986, they reached the round of 16. Included in their results that year was a 6-1 thrashing of Uruguay and a perfect three wins in three group matches.
They made it all the way to the quarterfinals in 1998 after finishing behind eventual champions France in the group stages and two points ahead of South Africa with whom they shared a 1-1 draw. Runners-up Brazil edged them 3-2 in the quarterfinals.
In 2002, the Danes topped Group A before falling to England in the round of 16.
- End of 2009 Fifa ranking: 28
- Appearances: 3
- Best result: quarterfinals 1998
- Players to watch: goalkeeper Thomas Sørensen, defender Daniel Agger, midfielder Christian Poulsen, forwards Jon Dahl Tomasson, Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl
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