Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Cameroon, Japan
Group E at first glance appears to be all about the battle for second place. The Netherlands are easily the team to beat and will be favored to stroll through the group. Bert Van Marwijk’s team enjoyed an easy qualifying campaign and have been in imperious form in the friendlies leading up to South Africa.
The Netherlands will open up against Denmark, the Danes being no pushover when it comes to World Cup play. In fact, in three previous Cup appearances, Morten Olsen’s side have never failed to advance to the Round of 16.
Cameroon still holds the record for best ever finish by an African team at the World Cup and the Indomitable Lions will hope to repeat or better their quarterfinal appearance from the 1990 World Cup.
Japan meanwhile are in their fourth consecutive finals and will be hoping to advance to the knockout stage for only the second time, the first being in 2002 when they co-hosted the tournament with South Korea.
What Should Happen
As mentioned, the Dutch are overwhelming favorites to finish first from this section. A plethora of attacking talent such as Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben means that there should be no shortage of goals from the Dutch team in South Africa. In all reality, the sights of this team are set much further than the group stage as this is a team that is a true darkhorse in regards to winning it all.
That leaves us with Denmark, Cameroon, and Japan to fight it out for second place in Group E. Japan are the outsiders having suffered from poor form in friendlies in the lead up to the World Cup. Japan coach Takeshi Okada has amazingly predicted a semifinal finish for his team, though even the most optimistic of Japanese supporters will have been surprised by that.
If Japan doesn’t improve then it will come down to Cameroon and Denmark to advance from Group E. Cameroon will be hoping that Samuel Eto’o can finally lead this team to glory at the World Cup while Denmark will be banking on teamwork and unity to see them through. The Danes may have the slight edge for advancing to the next round.
What Might Happen Instead
If European foes Denmark can snag a point from the Netherlands in their opener then Group E could instantly become a bit more interesting. The Dutch have shown some psychological frailities in this tournament in the past and an early setback could spell trouble for Oranje supporters.
Any sign of weakness early on by the Netherlands will be a message to the remaining three teams that this group is there for the taking. In that scenario what was a pretty straightforward group could be turned into a difficult and unpredictable section.
We mentioned that Netherlands against Denmark could be extremely important as far as the outcome in Group E is concerned, but assuming the Dutch do prevail in this group, then the match to watch will be Denmark and Cameroon on June 19th. This has all the makings of a classic, winner takes second place match, and should be a captivating affair for sure with so much on the line.
Players To Watch
The Netherlands will be hoping that Arjen Robben will be fit after a recent hamstring issue in a friendly versus Hungary. It may end up being however that Robin Van Persie is the man to watch out for. The Arsenal striker had an injury-plagued campaign for the Gunners, but the upside for the Netherlands is that he will be raring to go at the World Cup and will be much fresher than some of his counterparts. Van Persie is a hugely talented player who could supply the goals that his team need to go deep into this tournament.
Van Persie’s club teammate Nicklas Bendtner is perhaps Denmark’s great attacking hope. Considered by some to be arrogant and inconsistent in the past, Bendtner had a strong season for Arsenal and his scoring touch was key for Denmark in the qualifiers. This is the sort of situation that could end up being a real breakout tournament for Bendtner.
Everyone knows that when it comes to Cameroon the one to watch is Samuel Eto’o. Derided for his contributions to the national team recently by Cameroon legend Roger Milla he may have been, Eto’o is still Cameroon’s best bet for goals in South Africa. He has the ability to hit a patch of form that could lead Cameroon very far.
Shunsuke Nakamura has struggled in the last year, however the former Celtic playmaker will still have a huge influence on Japan’s performances in Group E. Nakamura’s dead-ball abilities in particular could help Japan pull off a shock in Group E.
One Game, One World Prediction
We won’t beat around the bush. Failure for the Netherlands to claim first in Group E would be a huge upset. This is a group they will be expected to advance from with considerable ease and we believe they will. So, once again, another group where the real focus will be on the runners-up position.
Japan doesn’t appear to have the defensive stability, form, or depth to make a huge splash in South Africa. Cameroon do appear to be a stable unit under Paul Le Guen while Denmark showed they are no pushover finishing ahead of the likes of Portugal and Sweden in their qualifying group.
In the end, we predict that it will be Cameroon who take second place thanks to the way they match up against Denmark. This second place position though will be amongst the most hotly contested of all the groups in the competition.
Any thoughts? Are we off the mark on Japan? Can Cameroon really do it? Are the Dutch really that good? Will the Danes taste success again? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!