World Cup’10 – Group E: Oranje, Red, Green and Blue

With the biggest show on the planet around the corner,  TheHardTackle brings to you a special series that provides you with group-wise capsules of information on each nation. No more hiding away from discussions and debates, we promise to make you a World Cup scholar before the showcase event begins. The world is getting ready, are you?

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NETHERLANDS

Rank: 4
Best Performance: Runners-up, 1974 and 1978
Coach: Bert van Marwijk

The Oranje, as the Netherlands team is commonly referred to, have been consistent under-achievers in all major football tournaments, since winning their last trophy in the 1988 Euro Cup Championship. From the days of Johann Cruyff, Netherlands have always boasted of the best attacking line-ups in the world, but inexplicably they stutter as the tournament progresses. They were the favorites to progress to the semi finals of the Euro 2008 after winning all matches in the group stage, but were tactically outwitted by Guus Hiddink’s Russia in the quarter-finals, continuing their ignominy of failing to deliver the goods when it mattered the most. The South African campaign gives the Dutch one more chance to exorcise the demons of the past, and to prove they are finally ready to step up to the occasion this time around.

Qualifying Campaign:

The Dutch maintained a perfect record by winning all eight games, which made them the first team to qualify for the tournament. They maintained a clean sheet in six of their qualifying fixtures, while Dirk Kuyt and Klaas Jan Huntelaar netted six of the seventeen goals scored in the campaign.

Strengths:

If one were to enquire about which teams have the best attacking players the world has witnessed, Netherlands would definitely be one of the candidates. Not only does the side possess excellent players in all forward and midfield departments, the key players have struck a rich vein of form prior to the South African Odyssey. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Mark Van Bommel have carried their respective clubs to the Champions League finals; Nigel De Jong has been one of Manchester City’s best players this season, and Robin Van Persie has recovered fully from his ankle fracture and will pose a potent threat in front of the goal.

Weaknesses:

The defense is as good as the goalkeeper, and Netherlands have been unable to find a goalkeeper of Van Der Sar’s caliber, after the Manchester United shot stopper announced his retirement; Maarten Stekelenberg will have the onerous task of keeping world class opposition strikers at bay. Another concern is the left back position, currently occupied by Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, who may have years of experience in him but could find the going tough against pacy right wingers, which most of the World Cup sides have in their ranks.

Wesley Sneijder Holland 2009/10

Wesley Sneijder – the lynchpin of Netherland’s attacks

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Wesley Sneijder(Midfielder)
Wesley Sneijder’s performances for Inter Milan this season is bound to make Real Madrid question their decision to offload him last season. The midfield dynamo been instrumental in the Italian club’s run to the Champions League finals, with his impeccable vision and precise passes splitting defenses with ridiculous ease. He has improved his all round game under Jose Mourinho’s guidance, contributing defensively as well when the occasion demanded it.

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CAMEROON

Rank: 19
Best Performance: Quarterfinals, 1990
Coach: Paul Le Guen

Cameroon have entered the World Cup four times in the last five occasions, failing to qualify for the 2006 edition. They have proved their mettle in the African Cup of Nations, but have always come up short on the International scene, having failed to progress beyond the first round in the 1994,1998 and 2002 World Cup campaigns.

Football - Italy v Cameroon International Friendly

Le Guen’s Pride of Lions!

Qualifying Campaign:

After a stuttering start, losing to Togo and mustering only a goalless draw against Morocco, Cameroon saw their coach Otto Pfister being replaced by Frenchman Paul LeGuen. This move inspired The Indomitable Lions to win their next four games, and Gabon’s loss to Togo confirmed their entry into the 2010 World Cup.

Strengths:

The Cameroon squad has highly experienced campaigners in Rigobert Song and Geremi, both of whom have played in more than hundred international games for their country. Their defense has been miserly in the qualifying campaign, with Alex Song providing the ideal foil to his uncle Rigobert in the central positions. The presence of their prolific striker and captain Samuel Eto’o upfront could cause problems for the opponent defense, while European campaigners Geremi and Lyon’s Jean Makoun patrol the midfield.

Weaknesses:

Cameroon have failed to make the cut at football’s greatest stage, and this can be attributed to their mentality when facing quality opponents. They were knocked out by eventual winners Egypt in the quarterfinals of the 2010 African Nations Cup, which summed up their inability to handle pressure despite the presence of international stars.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Samuel Eto’o(Striker)
The influential striker has enjoyed immense success at the club level, winning an unprecedented six trophies in one season with Barcelona FC, and is now close to winning a treble with Inter Milan, affirming his credentials as a big match player. The Indomitable Lions will be banking on his guile and experience to carry them through.

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DENMARK

Rank: 35
Best Performance: Quarterfinals, 1998, losing to Brazil 3-2
Coach: Morten Olsen

The Danish team travel to South Africa, with the intention to prove to their fans that they can compete with the biggest names in World Football. In Morten Olsen, they have an experienced manager with a footballing acumen, who is capable of inspiring his team to cause upsets to more fancied opponents.

Sports News - March 02, 2010

Danish task: Can Olsen spring a surprise?

Qualifying campaign:

Denmark was the surprise of the group, finishing at the top of the table above the more fancied Portugal and Sweden. This included a thrilling 3-2 win over Portugal, where four goals were scored in the last ten minutes of the game. Their wins over minnows Malta and Albania, followed by a double over European rivals Sweden, were enough to assure the Danes of a ticket to South Africa.

Strengths:

Like most Scandinavian teams, the Danes boast of a robust defense, with Liverpool’s Daniel Agger and Palermo’s Simon Kjaer marshalling the centre; this defense has conceded only 5 goals in the ten qualifying games. Strikers Nicklas Bendtner and Soren Larsen will deliver the goods upfront, with veteran Jon Dahl Tomasson providing the attacking backup option.

Weaknesses:

Despite their European credentials, the Danes are bound to struggle against the heavyweight teams, which have superior tactics and more technical players. Christian Poulsen’s tendency for on field indiscipline could cost his side vital points, and Nicklas Bendtner must be more clinical in front of the goal. However, the Danes are sweating over the fitness of Thomas Sorensen, without whom the back line looks more exposed.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Christian Poulsen(Midfielder)
The Juventus hardman has plied his trade for the national side seventy one times, and will be called upon to thwart the opposition attacks in the center of the field, as well as to play the attacking midfield role with equal aplomb.

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JAPAN

Rank: 45
Best Performance: Round of 16, 2002
Coach: Takeshi Okada

Japan look the weakest side in the Group E, but it would be a folly to underestimate the Samurai Blue. The Asian side has qualified for their fourth successive World Cup campaign; they had made it to the round of sixteen in the 2002 edition, on home turf. Along with South Korea, they represent Asia’s best chances of making a mark on World football, and the relatively unknown names in the team could provide the X factor for Japan to pull off an upset or two.

Japanese national soccer team head coach Takeshi Okada

Takeshi Okada: “Semi-finals? Yes, we can!”

Qualifying campaign:

Japan managed to get ahead of Bahrain in the group stages, with table leaders Australia proving to be too good for the rest of the group teams. Okada’s side have lost only once in eight games, and their 1-0 win over Uzbekistan at Tashkent guaranteed their entry into the world’s elite competition. However, a much sterner test awaits them at South Africa.

Strengths:

The key strategy in the Japanese armory will be the collective performance of the players on the field, as they play the quick passing and running game. However, Okada will be hoping for his star midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura to shrug off his poor form during his tenure at Espanyol, and shine on the field; the coach will also entrust the versatile Yasuhito Endo with the responsibility of spurring Japan’s attacks. Japanese captain Yuzi Nakazawa has 102 international caps to his credit, and will be called upon to pit his experience against the team’s more illustrious Group E compatriots.

Weaknesses:

Japan have had an indifferent run in the build-up to the World Cup, and their weaknesses against quality sides was exposed, as evinced by their performances against Australia in the qualifiers, and against China and South Korea in the East Asian Championships held recently. Another limiting factor is the poor international exposure for most of the squad players, with only a handful of them having played in Europe; they will open some eyes if they could rise to the occasion against their formidable opponents.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Keisuke Honda(Midfielder)
The CSKA Moscow midfielder can play in either the central attacking midfield role or in the ‘hole behind the striker’, and is also known for his free-kick taking ability. Along with the more experienced Shunsuke Nakamura and Yasuhito Endo, the young midfielder is capable of causing trouble to opposition defenses.

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THE FIXTURES:

Match Date – Time Venue Team 1 Team 2
9 14/06 13:30 Johannesburg – JSC Netherlands v Denmark
10 14/06 16:00 Mangaung / Bloemfontein Japan v Cameroon
25 18/06 16:00 Durban Netherlands v Japan
26 18/06 20:30 Tshwane/Pretoria Cameroon v Denmark
43 24/06 16:00 Rustenburg Denmark v Japan
44 26/06 16:00 Cape Town Cameroon v Netherlands

Netherlands are the firm favorites to progress to the next round, and one would not be surprised to see the Oranje replicate their qualifying campaign success in this group stage as well.

The fight for the second spot could be a closely contested affair, with Cameroon and Denmark capable of usurping each other to progress to the round of sixteen. If one of the team manages a draw against Netherlands and gains points off the other two contestants, this side will stay longer in South Africa.  However, Japan could prove to be a dark horse in the scheme of things to come.

TheHardTackle’s VERDICT:

1. Netherlands
2. Cameroon
3. Denmark
4. Japan

Cameroon will slightly edge out Denmark, due to the presence of experienced and quality players in their ranks. Japan could be the first team to crash out of the group stages, contrary to Takeshi Okada’s opinion that his side could go all the way to the semi-finals. Netherlands may easily go to the round of sixteen, but it’s the matter of the quarter finals which they must address, to ensure that history does not repeat for them!

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  • Howard Roark

    The present form of Robben and Sneijder makes the Dutch an extremely formidable opponent.

    I’ve no doubts in the fact that they would sail through their group, and in my books are genuine contenders. A lot will depend on their defence, as you rightly mentioned.

  • The attack is all fancy shmancy I agree…but I am a bit skeptical about their defence! Lets see! Go Oranje!

  • Somnath

    I am also skeptical about Stekelenberg, he seems very unstable at times, a bit like vds in his early days.

    I would fancy Denmark to go through, they have never went out in first round in a WC, despite getting some tricky groups.

  • An alleged al-Qaeda militant detained in Iraq said on Tuesday he was plotting to attack the Danish and Dutch teams at the World Cup in South Africa next month to avenge insults against the Prophet Muhammad.

  • Soccerfan

    WTF!!!

  • shady

    The dutch are the eternal chokers of world football and will remain so. Their defence will be the reason for this exit. Cameroon will edge out the Danish team but they will be more a stop gap team in the next stage where a better team will steamroll them. Japan is never gonna make it past the group stages again unless they again host another world cup. Sorensen is going to be the defining factor as far as the Danish team goes.

  • Hi guys,I like your site and it looks very interesting and easy to read,really!. I came from Spain. I love the Soccer and cannot wait till 11th June, can you?.But there is a problem camming from FIFA. It is that doesn´t choose the best teams in this planet for the World Cup which it should otherwise don´t call the World Cup a final, if you want to play soccer for the soul of competition then go to the olympics games. this is basically what the World Cup is turning to, and it su…, ire needed to beat france to be in and is not, jap beat lowly teams as bahrain, qatar, kuwait, to be in, is this justice I dont think so, just because you are in the World Cup it doesn´t mean that you have the quality to be in like jap can attes. Any way, I hope to watch a interesting final on 11th July and my favorite winner team is Mexico,and my favorite player is Lionel Messi.Good blog and keep going.Cu!