Group E may not have the evenly matched collection of sides under the seeded team like some other groups do, but it still should provide a lot of fireworks during the group stage. Holland is the clear favorite to move on, but issues that have doomed the team in the past could reappear. The Danes have advanced past the group stage in each of their previous World Cup appearances. Cameroon and Japan have each had a small taste of World Cup success and have just enough star quality to threaten the Europeans.
June 14 – 7:30 AM EDT Holland -- Denmark // Johannesburg
June 14 – 10:00 AM EDT Japan -- Cameroon // Bloemfontein
June 19 – 7:30 AM EDT Holland – Japan // Durban
June 19 – 2:30 PM EDT Cameroon -- Denmark // Pretoria
June 24 – 2:30 PM EDT Denmark -- Japan // Rustenburg
June 24 – 2:30 PM EDT Cameroon -- Netherlands // Cape Town
World Cup Appearances: 9
Best finish: Finalists, 1974,1978
Coach: Bert van Marwijk
Few players dominated a World Cup like Johan Cruyff did in Germany 74. The Clockwork Oranje came tantalizingly close to lifting the trophy, losing in the final to West Germany.
The Dutch have no shortage of excellent players. It’s up to van Marwijk to keep them all in check. The most tempestuous of these looks to be Wesley Sneijder. The Inter man seamlessly links the midfield with the attack. If only his rapport with his teammates were as smooth.
The Dutch are a dazzling team whose elegant, attacking style makes them a neutral’s favorite. There is no question that they have the talent to advance deep into the tournament. However, “the best team never to win the World Cup” always seems to enter the tournament with a lot of unnecessary baggage. What will be Bert van Marwijk’s most pressing task? Keep the peace in the locker room. Internal team turmoil is as Dutch as Total Football.
“We'll be disappointed if we don't get through to the quarter finals. After that we'll need a lot of luck. What boosts our optimism somewhat is that many of our key players are having a killer season with their club.”
World Cup Appearances: 4
Best Finish: Quarterfinals, 1998
Coach: Morton Olsen
Playing their first World Cup in 1986, Danish Dynamite obliterated Uruguay in Nezahualcoyotl.
Player to watch:
John Dahl Tomasson is the heart and soul of the Danish National team, but Nicholas Bendtner may prove to be Denmark’s go to man. The lanky Arsenal striker is a big target, has a penchant for scoring clutch goals, and can be the perfect foil for the Danish Captain.
Denmark burst onto the international scene in the mid ‘80s with their “Danish Dynamite” sides that threatened, and finally broke through in 1992. The only vestige of those sides in the current edition of Denmark is that Morton Olsen was the Captain. Olsen has opted for a more of a team approach in 2010. He used a relatively small pool of players in qualifying that ended up paying big dividends, as Denmark qualified ahead of both Portugal and Sweden. Opponents beware: the Danes only allowed 5 goals in qualifying, so falling behind to Denmark puts teams in a deeper hole than usual.
“If Denmark is able count on their few key players, then I expect that they will be able to progress from their group, but then probably not get all that much further. There is a lack of real star quality that you need to get far in a big WC tournament.”
World Cup Appearances: 4
Best Finish: Round of 16, 2002
Coach: Takeshi Okada
The Japanese used their home field advantage well in 2002, advancing to the knockouts where they succumbed to Turkey.
Reigning Asian player of the year, Yasuhito Endo, is the rare breed of complete midfielder that can really cause problems for his opponents. The Gamba Osaka man is equally deft in creating Japan’s attacks and nullifying the opposition’s. He can definitely provide the service needed to set up goals, it’s the putting them in the back of the net where Japan begins to falter.
Coach Okada has set some very lofty goals for the Samurai Blue. He doesn’t see any reason why Japan can’t reach the quarterfinals. He is so sure of his team’s abilities despite rotating strikers into the starting line-up, hoping that one of them will stick. No one has. Japan plays a possession game, but having the ball doesn’t necessarily lead to goals. Goal scorers are plentiful in this group. They just don’t wear Samurai Blue.
“This is the most balanced Japan side ever at a world cup. It’s also the most solid defense, unlike 2006.”
World Cup Appearances: 6
Best Finish: Quarterfinals, 1990
Coach: Paul Le Guen (France)
It started when François Omam Biyik stunned Argentina in the opener. Cameroon’s run in Italia 90 was the deepest any African side had ever gone. 38 year-old Roger Milla’s brace lifted the Indomitable Lions past Colombia in the round of 16.
Player to Watch: Samuel Eto’o is one of the world’s most feared strikers, so he will generate plenty of attention from the opposition. But he’s used to that – and he still scores goals. The Cameroon Captain can easily carry his team. If Cameroon can find someone to help shoulder the burden, they can be dangerous.
Cameroon’s improbable run 20 years ago in Italy catalyzed a lot of changes in the World Cup. FIFA awarded Africa with another ticket in 1994, and Africa were one of the prime beneficiaries when the tournament expanded to 32. Cameroon, though, has yet to match the magic from 1990. They haven’t come close. The Indomitable Lions have always had the raw material to generate results, it just hasn’t happened for them. Leading into the World Cup, the players have bought into Le Guen’s attacking style, so Cameroon games might have that end-to-end action seldom seen in the World Cup.
“I don't speculate on a team I support (just my own little voodoo)”