(Results of the day: Netherlands 2-0 Denmark, Japan 1-0 Cameroon, Italy 1-1 Paraguay)
After an exciting and eventful day three, the World Cup regained normalcy with two matches that were hardly entertaining, and a third that took a while to get going. While Netherlands got off to a winning start courtesy an own goal from an unfortunate Daniel Agger and a second from Dirk Kuyt, Cameroon were beaten by Asian giants Japan via a Keisuke Honda strike. On the other hand, Italy were made to work extremely hard, leveling through Daniele de Rossi after a tough Paraguayan side had taken the lead through Antolin Alcaraz.
A semi-firing Netherlands were the best team of the day. Although they were far from their best and needed an own goal to propel them to victory, they were the most inventive and adventurous team of the day – something which may not be a compliment to the Dutch, but an indicator of how bad the rest of the pack was.
The Dutch did miss Arjen Robben in the match. Although there were a few tricks and flicks on show at times, Netherlands generally lacked the typical ‘razzle-dazzle’ expected of them. Robin Van Persie missed a couple of chances to get on the score-sheet and looked a completely different player as compared to his Arsenal days. Rafael Van der Vaart looked lively, but chracterised the Dutch performance by lacking the cutting edge.
Dutch – team of the day!
While Wesley Sneijder struggled to find his Inter Milan feet, Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt capped a good performance with a late goal. He is probably used to scrappy games by now, seeing how his club Liverpool’s season was full of such matches. A huge positive for the Oranje was young Elia’s injection of pace and skill, and his impact as a substitute.
Another team to take the plaudits on this day were Paraguay. Coming into the World Cup with a reputation to attack, they showed a general toughness to their game to put up a great fight against world champions Italy. Although Paraguay were under the siege late on, they always looked dangerous on the counter. They also closed the Italians down extremely well, and matched them toe-to-toe when it came to midfield battles.
Japan and Cameroon both make this section of the article, and that tells you what the viewers had to endure. Japan’s dogged nature helped them upset African giants Cameroon, who were extremely disappointing. Yes, the Africans have hyped up their home continent teams, but way more was expected of the indomitable lions.
Cameroon’s star player Samuel Eto’o was wasted wide right for most of the game. It took a disastrous piece of defending from Cameroon for Japan to score. Two Cameroon defenders going for the same ball resulted in both missing the ball, which eventually landed at Honda’s feet. Cameroon’s Stephane Mbia produced the shot of the tournament so far when he rocketed a thirty-yard screamer onto the bar.
World champions Italy were highly disappointing in their fixture. Though Lippi’s men are known for their solidity, they were never comfortable at the back. Their attack was a major disappointment, being rescued by Daniele de Rossi’s equaliser. Pepe was Italy’s only bright spark.
Denmark were considered to be one of the dark horses in the tournament. Yesterday, the world failed to see why. The worst team on the day barely put up a fight, lacked creativity and looked to have settled for a 0-0 draw till Denmark’s own defenders changed their plans. Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner was isolated for long periods, and did not find the support he needed from Jorgensen and Rommedahl.
Goal of the Day
Antolin Alcaraz‘s brilliant header was the pick of the day. He rose high above the Italian defense, left Cannavaro rooted to the spot and guided the ball into the corner of the net. Italian goalkeeper Buffon hardly moved.
Look Gigi, look!
Player of the Day
It wasn’t a day of individual brilliance, but our player of the day is Antolin Alcaraz. Not only did he score a wonderful headed goal from a set-piece, he was a rock at the back. His defensive performance made the Italian forwards anonymous in the game, and only a goalkeeping mistake enabled the Italians to score.
Historic Moment of the Day
Japan achieved their first ever World Cup win on foreign soil, in seven attempts.